It's like something out of a sci-fi film. Robots roaming around hotels, cleaning rooms and corridors, and self-driving androids fetching groceries for shoppers. Once a distant thought, this scenario has now become a reality in various industries that are bringing in high-tech robots to assist in cleaning as well as deliveries.
Boston's YOTEL introduced a cleaning bot nicknamed "Vi-YO-Let" to its team, The Washington Post reported. Vi-YO-Let was programmed to understand the hotel's floor plan and now wanders around disinfecting surfaces and cleaning up after guests.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, there is a greater demand for these state-of-the-art robots, which can cost upward of $125,000. Initially designed for hospital settings, they are now being introduced to hotels, convention centers, train stations, and airports. In one promotional video, the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, explains that the cleaning bot "zaps every inch before your arrival," providing guests with a "pathogen-free sanctuary."
Meanwhile, over at Walmart, executives are looking at a different type of android.
According to The Associated Press, delivery and pickup sales have increased by 300% since the start of the pandemic, and, in order to ensure shoppers still receive their purchases in a timely manner, the company plans to introduce self-driving robots to fetch groceries and prepare them for pickup within an hour. The robots will carry small goods to Walmart workers, who then prepare them for shoppers. However, staff members will still have to pick out fresh groceries as well as larger items from the store.
While these robots may provide relief to overworked staffers, job security is a real concern.
D. Taylor, the international president of the Unite Here union, explained that he has been tracking the rise of automation for four years and the reality of the situation is that jobs are going to change as technology progresses.
"If they can develop driverless cars, if they can develop the whole variety of different things I saw there, certainly the jobs in our industry are going to change," he told The Washington Post.
Within the union's labor contracts are "extensive technology language" to protect workers from being made redundant by transitioning them into other roles or developing new skills should their jobs be taken over by androids. At the very least, they should receive severance pay, Taylor said. That being said, many jobs will cease to exist.
"We're not a bunch of Luddites. We want to collaborate, not be run over by technology," he said. In order to ensure this, hospitality brands would have to not "disregard the workers that, frankly, got them to the dance in the first place," he added.
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