What are Workplace Robots?
Updated: Sep 26, 2022
Image courtesy of Jess Rose Clark
Designed and built to work with and/or for humans, workplace robots are robots that are deployed where people work to optimize resources, improve safety/comfort, and increase productivity through workplace augmentation and/or automation.
At Ava, we define the workplace as anywhere people do work: hospitals, retail spaces, enterprise office settings, manufacturing floors, classrooms, etc. These settings, and the people in these settings, are what uniquely define the specifications, design, and use cases for workplace robots.
Industrial robots and workplace robots are not apples in the same bucket. While there are some similarities with sensors, cameras, and mapping technology, what we call "base technology," there are very important differences. The main point of difference is in use case. The payload, or "top-half" of the robot, whether it's a video screen, UV lamps, or an advanced security camera, is where the technology meets the workplace use case.
Although workplace robots can also serve to automate and improve processes, they are used in a broad spectrum of environments that don’t have a primary “move item, pick up/put down, assemble item” purpose. Use cases for workplace robots are more nuanced and custom. They enable broader, people-related processes such as observation, monitoring, environmental testing, reporting, collaboration and remote connection via telepresence, etc. And they are designed in a way that moves with the current, not against the grain.
Form factor and human-centered design
If workplace technology can't play nice with people, it's not designed and built for long term success.
Great spaces - and the people in them - deserve a more immersive experience for meetings, collaboration, site visits, and presentations. What they don't need is disruption. Being designed to integrate and BE alongside people is what makes Ava Telepresence Robots more than "video conferencing on wheels, or an "iPad on a stick."
Workplace robots are not effective if they're forced solutions. In fact, after attending a robotics conference, a customer of ours offered:
"They are finding use cases for Spot that workplace robots like Ava could do much better because of their design and better suitability to be with people."
Putting a video screen on an industrial robot or having a 6 ft tall cleaning robots with huge eyes rolling down grocery store aisles--these aren't experience-forward solutions. Workplace robots need to keep human-centered design as a priority to differentiate from their industrial cousins in the right ways.
Pretty soon the workplace is going to be one big people-robot mixer. We can't have the people on one side of the auditorium and robots on the other. The whole concept of workplace robots is for people to bring out the best in robots by automating tasks people don't want to do--and for robots to bring out the best in people by augmenting their skills, talents, and productivity.