This ques­tion is asked often, are robots going to take our jobs? This is what a fac­to­ry pre­dom­i­nant­ly looks like. Hundreds of thou­sands of fac­to­ries all across the world. Whether this was 30 years ago or today, it’s actu­al­ly still a fair­ly anal­o­gous exam­ple. You have machines and peo­ple work­ing side by side.

What has hap­pened, though, over the last hand­ful of years is there is a dichoto­my of behav­iors hap­pen­ing. On one side, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is ush­er­ing in a sig­nif­i­cant increase in con­nect­ed machines, con­nect­ed prod­ucts. And at the same time, the peo­ple who are stand­ing next to these high­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed machines are ulti­mate­ly con­nect­ed in their home lives. They car­ry a cell phone that’s man­ag­ing their smart car, their smart home, their smart sys­tems. But they have almost no inter­ac­tion with the sys­tems at work.

So think about this in our home lives. We go home, we are con­nect­ed to every­thing. But when we come back to work, we’re going back to in many cas­es paper. In some cas­es the com­pa­nies have dig­i­tized their work, but for the most part it’s a ref­er­ence tool. You’re stand­ing next to a machine; all of a sud­den you don’t know what you need to do next; you pull out your phone; you look some­thing up. You walk across the fac­to­ry floor; you log into the one or two ter­mi­nals that might be in the man­u­fac­tur­ing space and you look it up.

And what we find is that knowl­edge in this case of work gen­er­al­ly was accu­mu­lat­ed before you got to the job. Or it’s train­ing. So it’s your edu­ca­tion and you’re trained, but it’s not nec­es­sar­i­ly high­ly transferable. 

In the mod­ern age that we’re enter­ing into right now, we’ve got an increase in pop­u­la­tion. But we’re also assum­ing that there’s going to be an increase in con­sump­tion. One of the fears, of course, is that we’re going to be replaced by this insur­gence of con­nect­ed machines. 

We’re also in the new nor­mal. This is the first time in history—and will con­tin­ue to be this way, I believe—that there are going to be and there are more con­nect­ed devices than peo­ple. And it’s grow­ing at a pace that is far out­seat­ing us. How does the machine world deal with that increase in pop­u­la­tion and the increase in con­nec­tiv­i­ty? We have machine learn­ing tech­niques. We have advanced AIs that start mak­ing sense of that data for the oth­er sys­tems, the oth­er inter­con­nec­tions. But how do peo­ple engage with that? 

What I’d like to do is show you an exam­ple, and this is from our own expe­ri­ences, where the appli­ca­tion of wear­able tech­nol­o­gy, aug­ment­ed and assist­ed real­i­ty, are open­ing up new oppor­tu­ni­ties for the human work­force to be engaged side by side with the autonomous work­force. And to do that I’m going to show you an exam­ple from Boeing.

Here Brian plays a pro­mo­tion­al video for APX Labs’ project with Boeing, view­able at their site (cap­tioned).

One exam­ple of many that we’re see­ing right now. The aver­age cus­tomer we work with, or oth­er peo­ple in our indus­try work with, we see dozens and dozens of use cas­es. General Electric, for instance, has over a hun­dred use cas­es where wear­able tech­nol­o­gy they believe can trans­form their busi­ness. And this is mea­sured from an eco­nom­ic stand­point on an incred­i­ble scale. Forrester Research’s JP Gownder esti­mates that by 2020 up to four­teen mil­lion American work­ers will have smart glass­es aid­ing in their man­u­fac­tur­ing, field ser­vice, and logis­tics oper­a­tions. And across the globe, rough­ly 50% devel­oped world has what you’d con­sid­er an uncon­nect­ed, desk­less work­force, that their only dis­ad­van­tage against robots in this case is access to information.

So we see in the man­u­fac­ture world, it’s com­plex access to infor­ma­tion. Could you get it? Could you see in real time? Could you remove that bar­ri­er to knowl­edge? In ship­ping and logis­tics, DHL is show­ing exper­i­ments where they’re get­ting between 15 and 20% improve­ment on the aver­age pick and pack time. And again, the scale of this from a world eco­nom­ic stand­point, SAP alone runs sev­en hun­dred thou­sand ware­hous­es around the world. 

And one of the things I think I found most excit­ing about where this future por­tends, speak­ing with lead­ers at AGCO recent­ly, and they were exper­i­ment­ing with wear­able tech­nol­o­gy. And this part real­ly kind of gave me an aha moment. They put smart glass­es on users who had nev­er built one of their trac­tors before, and raced them against the peo­ple who’d been doing it for years. And every time, they beat the pro, just by hav­ing real-time to access infor­ma­tion. It could be as sim­ple as what’s the torque val­ue on the bolt I’m about to put on? Or where does this part go? But you’re able to remove con­fu­sion. You’re able to remove the uncer­tain­ties. And that cog­ni­tive load is actu­al­ly the biggest chal­lenge in our workforce.

So what we think, and this is I think the part that’s excit­ing if you’ve been wor­ried about the rise of the robots. I think we have a very impor­tant part to play in a har­mo­ny of man with machine. It’s not about us hav­ing no future, it’s about remov­ing a bar­ri­er. It’s about hav­ing access to infor­ma­tion. And then it’s in the abil­i­ty to remove frus­tra­tion from the work­force. Enable them and empow­er them, and in turn unlock an amaz­ing amount of latent val­ue that exists in the human work­force today. So I believe that we’ll be com­pet­i­tive for many many years to come.

Further Reference

Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2016 at the World Economic Forum site

Help Support Open Transcripts

If you found this useful or interesting, please consider supporting the project monthly at Patreon or once via Cash App, or even just sharing the link. Thanks.