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The rise of the robot

Duration:
18 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 31 December 2012

We chart the costs and benefits of the rise of the robot. Robots have always made some uncomfortable, but can they really free many of us from drudgery and repetitive work?

We may not have humanoid robots greeting us at the door when we get home but robots are more commonplace than we normally recognise. Surely a washing machine or dishwasher is just a rather unglamorous version of the kind of robot of which science fiction writers were dreaming?

Justin Rowlatt meets Baxter, a robot make by the US firm, Rethink Robotics. Chief executive, Rodney Brooks, hopes Baxter will transform how we humans work with robots.

The car firm General Motors is generally reckoned to have been the first company to use robots. The first were used to lift pieces of hot metal from die-casting machines. And the demand has been growing ever since, says Gudrun Litzenberger of the International Federation of Robotics.

The world in which we live isn't just set to be reshaped by the army of robots toiling in factories across the world. The online equivalent of robots - avatars - could soon be transforming the way we work. Avatars are virtual representations of ourselves, and are common in online gaming. Soon we may be doing something similar when we talk to our colleagues says Ghislaine Boddington, creative director of body>data>space, a company which specialises in how new technology can improve the way we communicate.

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