Far out Friday: Robot workers force company closures

by Nicola Middlemiss15 Apr 2016
While some industry commentators may say that robotic workers threaten millions of jobs around the world, one Chinese restaurant chain is sure to disagree after it was forced to scale back operations thanks to the incompetent AI.
When Guangzhou-based eatery Heweilai introduced the US$7,000 (S$9,600) machines to three of its restaurants last year, the move was met with much excitement and customers flocked to see the wait-staff in action.
Fast forward a few months and two of those restaurants have now closed with the third only in operation after firing its entire robotic workforce.
Maintenance costs may have been lower than the average worker’s salary but, according to one human employee, there were too many tasks the machines couldn’t do and too many variables in play.
The skin-and-bones staff member said the robots – which frequently malfunctioned – couldn’t handle soup dishes, pour water or take orders and had to follow a fixed route that sometimes resulted in clashes.
Zhang Yun, a vice president at the Guangdong University of Technology, told a local newspaper that the robots weren’t ready for the job.
He said mechanical workers will be widely used within the manufacturing industry in the future, as many tasks are repetitive, but said further development is needed before robots are able to work effectively in the service sector.