Robots must be smarter if they're going to pack boxes in warehouses, scan inventory in stores, and even care for the elderly. The rise of machine learning in recent years is making that possible. Steady innovation has led to robots that can independently "learn" to navigate tight corridors and grasp delicate objects without crushing them. Some of the leading American and Japanese robotics companies and investors recently gathered in Menlo Park, Calif. to discuss artificial intelligence in robotics and its impact on business. But it may require some cooperation between the U.S. and an important overseas ally.
That role, A.I. specialist, is the fastest growing U.S. job in terms of number of hires, at least according to LinkedIn, which published its annual emerging jobs report on Tuesday. Hirings for A.I. specialists on the career networking service have grown 74% annually over the past four years, LinkedIn said. But it didn't reveal how many jobs that represents, only that demand for that job role is growing faster than other emerging jobs. What's noteworthy about this year's survey is that last year's top job role, blockchain developer, is absent from the latest list. It highlights how the recent craze over cryptocurrencies and blockchain created a brief demand for blockchain-related jobs, but as the hype died down, so too did demand for people with blockchain skills.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation in late July to create a temporary state commission that will examine how artificial intelligence impacts his state. In doing so, New York joined Vermont, Alabama, and Washington in establishing an A.I. task force that will examine the cutting-edge technology and then make recommendations about how it should be regulated. The groups vary in their mission, but the general message is the same: companies pushing A.I., the brains behind innovation like robotics and facial recognition software, can't necessarily be trusted to do what's in the best interest of state residents. Brandie Nonnecke, founding director of University of California's Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society Policy Lab, says that task forces could help keep state lawmakers up to date about the technology. The end result, she says, will be better-written bills that don't get stuck in legislative purgatory.
Guess who's getting used to working with robots in their everyday lives? The very same warehouse workers once predicted to be losing their jobs to mechanical replacements. According to their makers, the machines should take on the most mundane and physically strenuous tasks. "They weigh a lot," Amazon worker Amanda Taillon said during the pre-Christmas rush at a company warehouse in Connecticut. Taillon's job is to enter a cage and tame Amazon's wheeled warehouse robots for long enough to pick up a fallen toy or relieve a traffic jam.
Traditional and new-school retailers alike are using AI and robotics to automate various parts of the retail chain, from manufacturing to last-mile delivery. Retail is under pressure to crack the AI code. After all, corporations in every industry are scrambling to adapt and integrate artificial intelligence into their products -- and retail is no exception. Learn how Walmart, Amazon, Sephora, Zara, and other retailers are using AI to reinvent the brick-and-mortar store. For traditional retail giants, this means entering the playing field with the likes of e-commerce behemoths Amazon and Alibaba, both of which are leveraging big data and powerful AI algorithms to transform the retail space. In addition to fierce competition, the need for a change in strategy is being underscored by the record rates at which many US retailers are shutting down. In 2017 alone, 21 retail chains applied for bankruptcy, including high-profile names like RadioShack, Toys R' Us, and Aerosoles.