Robot staff keep restaurant diners safe

The human touch: A competition is underway to find names for the robot waiters. © Royal Palace Renesse

Should robots replace human jobs? A restaurant in the Netherlands has just employed mechanical waiters. The robots are reliable, polite, and never ill. In many ways, they are perfect workers.

What’s happening

Robots are a fact of life. They make cars and they appear in shops as self-checkout machines. Soon, they will be driving our cars. Robots can take over tasks we find boring, and more menial jobs are being replaced by them each year. But some people are worried about how this will affect humans.

Find out more

The Royal Palace restaurant has two new employees. Just like normal waiters, they can greet customers, deliver drinks, and pick up dishes. There is one important difference though – they are robots.

Restaurant owner Leah Hu ordered the humanoid waiters before the pandemic to help when the restaurant was busy. Now, she thinks they could be vital for keeping her diners safe by helping to reduce human-to-human contact. Restaurants in the Netherlands re-opened on 1 June with social distancing rules in place.

Though the mechanical waiters have been given human clothes, critics say they lack character. Hu acknowledges that they are not perfect, admitting, “We will always need people in this industry.”

Should robots replace more human jobs?

Some say…

Definitely! Robots don’t get bored or tired, making them very good at repetitive, dull tasks. Using them to replace jobs allows us to spend time doing more interesting work. Robots are ideal for avoiding human contact, and they are hygienic. In restaurants, they won’t forget orders and might actually give people more attention than busy humans can.

Others think…

Of course not! While robots are useful for performing simple tasks, they cannot deal with unusual requests. They are also incapable of mimicking true human interaction. They cannot talk like people, and they are programmed to be polite rather than genuinely friendly. And replacing jobs with robots is also unfair on people who need to work.

You Decide

  1. Do you think robots could work alongside humans?

Activities

  1. Create a design for a robot that can do a specific job. Imagine you are on Dragon’s Den and write a pitch for your invention.

Some People Say...

“If your job can be easily explained, it can be done by a robot.”

Anders Sandberg, head of Future of Humanity, Oxford University.

What do you think?

Word Watch

Menial
A job that doesn’t require much skill.
Humanoid
Something that looks like a human without actually being one.
Vital
Absolutely necessary; essential.
Social distancing
Restaurants are only allowed 30 people inside, and everyone must keep a distance of two metres.
Industry
A particular branch of economic activity. Restaurants and hotels are in the hospitality industry.
Mimicking
Copying.
Interaction
Communication; conversation that can be with words and gestures.
Programmed
When a computer is provided with coded instructions to behave in a particular way.

Subjects

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