Anything You Can Do, Robots Can Do Better: Photos
No matter how well trained a pilot or other skilled worker might be, humans are imperfect, and the chances for error will always be there.
Major League Baseball announced this week a plan to use instant replay in 2014 on certain disputed calls, when challenged by team managers. The new policy would not apply to called balls and strikes, but there is a computer system that can accurately tell whether a pitch is in the strike zone. It's called PITCHf/x.
The system is in use in all 30 MLB stadiums, according to the company that makes it, Sportvision. Multiple cameras track the pitch for speed, trajectory and, most importantly, location. Pro baseball doesn't use the system to make calls, however. The system is used for TV broadcasts, stats tracking, and consumer apps.
Human error appears to be the cause of the crash of Asiana Flight 214 bound from Seoul. The pilot, in control of a Boeing 777 for the first time in his career, flew too slowly during his descent, and even attempted to abort the landing, before the plane crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport.
No matter how well trained a pilot might be, humans are imperfect, and the chances for error will always be there. Could robots in the future offer hope for reducing if not all together eliminating the chances of this kind of incident repeating itself?
While the idea of putting a machine in the cockpit to fly a plane for the entire journey might make modern-day passengers uneasy, in the future, we might be flying the friendly skies in planes piloted by robots. Already, autopilot is responsible for taking control of an aircraft for most of a flight; pilots are responsible for take-off and landing. Unmanned aerial vehicles are also used by the military, though these aircraft do not carry passengers.
Explore other occupations machines will be taking over from their human counterparts to do a better job.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2012 (PDF), there were 10.8 million automobile accidents in 2009. And while the number of automobile fatalities, just under 36,000 that same year, has gone down thanks to improvements in safety technology, reducing the total number of accidents, including fatal ones, will require a technology that can replace the most error-prone part of any car: the driver.
Google is one of a number of companies that is working on a driverless car concept. Although work is still needed before this technology will reach consumers -- the system still has difficulty identifying lane limitations in heavy snows, for example -- driverless cars powered by Google's electronic brain have logged more than 140,000 miles as of February of this year. The Internet giant even posted a video last year of one of their prototypes navigating a legally blind man through the drive-through at a Taco Bell.
Are you tired of dealing with dishonest mechanics working on your car? A robot in the future might be able to do the same job, without all the markups and the three-day wait to get your car back.
It may be a small step forward, but the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has already developed a robot that can change a tire. Though simple for a human, the task is more complex for a robot, given the need to switch tools throughout the job. As a result, the robot doesn't change a tire as quickly as a human mechanic -- at least not yet.
When it comes to financial trade, big money decisions are made by brokers at lightning speeds. No matter how quickly a human can analyze and execute a trade, a machine, with the same available information and (programmed) risk tolerance, can do it faster.
Unlike other entries on this list, the robot takeover of Wall Street isn't a matter for the future, but the present. Currently, computers can make decisions on whether to buy or sell a thousand times faster than any human.
The obvious risk of entrusting machines with these decisions is that glitches or quirks in an algorithm could lead to sudden mishaps, also called flash crashes, that can result in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.
As on Wall Street, speed creates value at newsrooms across America. And no matter how quickly a human journalist can turn around copy, a robotic reporter would file faster every time.
Narrative Science, a company based out of Evanston, Ill., has for years been developing software sports statistics, real estate sales and more, and producing an article from that raw data.
Narrative Science isn't looking to replace journalists -- not yet anyway -- but has instead applied its summary technology to financial reports, social media trends and more to help turn their data into easy-to-read prose.
Have you ever wanted your own personal butler or maid? This kind of service would be considered a luxury for when using human workers. But like Rosie in the Jetsons, a robot that could clean up after you or hold the door for you could be affordable in the future.
The Personal Robotics Lab at Cornell University has created a prototype that can anticipate and perform simple tasks, such as refilling a cup of coffee.
The robot isn't entirely ready to take on a household, however. As TechNewsDaily's Elizabeth Palermo reported in May, the robot "made correct predictions 82 percent of the time when looking one second into the future but only 57 percent of the time when looking 10 seconds into the future." So until it's prediction rate improves, you'll have to pick up after yourself for now.
Machines have made the job of farming vastly more productive for farmers as they have taken over jobs that once required human and animal power to perform.
Although machines can be involved in all stages of the crop production, much of the produce you see in the grocery store is still harvested by hand. According to the Center for Immigration studies, "at least 20 to 25 percent of the U.S. vegetable acreage and 40 to 45 percent of the U.S. fruit acreage is totally dependent on hand harvesting."
Hand harvesting is typical for produce that is considered fragile, or where certain qualities are sought after. Even in these cases, modern machines could be programmed to outperform their human counterparts. Grapes for wine production, for example, are often hand-picked, but a University of Auckland study found that machine harvesters outperformed humans in selecting quality grapes.
Even with decades of education, training and practice under their belts, surgeons still make mistakes. Doctors can be on their feet for hours and a time slouched over a patient while performing a complicated procedure, a job that requires focus, precision and a certain situational awareness should the unexpected arise. Time and fatigue can take their toll.
Robots, however, don't have the same limitations. Robotic-assisted surgeries are increasingly common in the operating room, but autonomous machines conducting procedures without human intervention is beyond the capability of existing technology.
While robotic surgeons might be the future of medicine, critics of current robotic technology in the O.R. allege the medical devices industry has done "a poor job of monitoring the safety profile of certain new technologies," as Marty Makary of Johns Hopkins University Hospital told CNBC in April. Out of nearly 1.5 million robotic-assisted procedures since 2000, reports show 85 deaths and 245 injuries resulting from accidents tied to this technology.
While any number above zero may seem unacceptably high, the number of mistakes resulting from human surgeons averages out to about 4,000 per year, according to a study published in 2012 by Johns Hopkins University.
Robots on the battlefield might seem like something out of an apocalyptic science fiction novel. But future wars may be fought by automatons.
Machines have already joined the battle on a number of fronts, from autonomous fighter drones to armed sentries to reconnaissance robots soldiers can throw to scout dangerous areas.
In light of the development of these and other military robotic technologies, the United Nations has called for a ban on the development of armed automatons.
Robots are already ahead of human astronauts when it comes to space exploration. NASA has to date landed four rovers -- Sojourner, Opportunity, Spirit and Curiosity -- on the surface of Mars, where no human will likely set foot for decades.
NASA and General Motors have also developed cutting-edge robot, dubbed Robonaut 2, that is meant to one day work alongside humans in space, possibly doing jobs that might be unsafe for astronauts.
Although robots may be a step ahead of humans in space for the foreseeable future, only a human can really plant a flag on a distant body or planet and push the horizons of our species.