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COVID vs HUMANoidS: 'Your enemy’s enemy is your friend'

The whole world is fighting against Covid. The once so intimidating robots suddenly seem to be the new found friends in this battle for a safe Earth. Now all those critics who thought robots are threat to life are re-thinking, when they see these machines move around to deliver medicine, check vitals, disinfect premises and even conduct tests. We can say Japan1 is the abode for humanoids as it even went one step ahead by giving subsidies to nursing homes to adopt robots – there by inviting them to be part of day to day life. This is exactly what is needed now instead of having robots in industries and labs, let it move around along with us. It is no longer human vs humanoids, rather it is covid vs humanoids.

 

Humanoids & its teething phase:

Searching for a definition, I understood that a humanoid2 is self-controlled robot which can adjust itself to the surroundings and also reach the set target. Well it’s not so simple as it seems to be. The challenge is in training it with human intelligence, giving it a degree of freedom and defining its adoption level which we believe is ethical to permit.

Humanoid developments have been in place since2 19th century and are evolving ever since. A lot of research and humanoid robots’ construction has been happening across the globe, spanning Japan, France, Germany, Korea, Australia and Italy etc. As they evolved, they are more like human appearance, more of human movements and friendly in nature. Their purposes have evolved from - talking like human, assisting the elderly and visually challenged people, balancing, dancing, pushups, pick up objects, mopping floor and then even the female robots. The number of degrees of freedom as well as the number of needed sensors along with visual systems have increased as well.

 

Humanoids in Banking:

As humanoids evolved with respect to the value that it promised in varied domains like education, business, manufacturing and research etc, lot of traction was seen in Banking around 2017. In India alone we see several humanoids like IRA from HDFC, Lakshmi from City Union Bank, Mitra and Candi – from Canara bank, Pepper from HSBC. Hats off to these pioneers who took that bold step and made space for these robots. The range of functions varied from like

  • Answering a pre-defined set of questions to AI enabled responses.
  • Free moving around branches to dancing with customers.
  • Speech and space recognition to two-way communications & human like gestures
  • Integrated with central systems through APIs

 

Trust them a little more and you will see magic:

While I felt these humanoids did receive lot of attention 2 years back, why is it that everyone is silent now, or is it that the background work is happening, and results are awaited? We have to wait and see.

I believe the humanoids do have lot of capability which banks are currently exploring. At the same time when it comes to convincing customer and handling their money, banks also need to work on the trust building factor. Humanoids are not just for entertaining and garnering attention – bank have to not only believe but also propagate that it meant serious stuff bringing in robots, especially with Covid around.

 The initial phase of launch is over and now is the time to show that humanoids really add value to customer. Listing some here:

  • One can use humanoids to maintain that social distancing at bank.
  • Take them around to customer location with all sanitizing precautions.
  • Try them as cash delivery machines instead of asking customers to come to ATM location.
  • Try out options for customers to rent robots for a day to just do the sanitizing and disinfecting at home.

On an ongoing basis, if it does not make a difference to customer, the technology is going to loose its initial steam and fall flat. I think the question is not on whether humanoids have that capability. They have and it is for us as customers & as bankers, to trust them and give them more responsibility. The pioneers would see wonders.

 

Future is promising

Humanoids are here to stay for long and they have proved their mettle already in banking in a number of ways. Also exhibiting human emotions and learning from environment is incorporated by many players. The future might see making autonomous decisions and nurturing relationships.

Forget banks, robots can just be in your home living with you as a reliable partner. It’s not fiction any more. Life will see a change – raising lot of social, phycological, political as well as philosophical questions. Keeping in mind the Asimov’s Three law of robotics, Humanoids hopefully won’t create a danger to the mankind. Also as we research further, we will understand our human brain and its connection to body better.

 

References:

1) https://inc42.com/buzz/human-vs-humanoid/

2) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/224205809_Evolution_of_Humanoid_Robot_and_contribution_of_various_countries_in_advancing_the_research_and_development_of_the_platform

 

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