Sci-fi movies and TV shows have long been a part of our lives. In fact, for many of us, our wildest dreams are powered by the idea of owning a machine from Back to The Future, The Jetsons, Star Wars, Star Trek and the list goes on. While a flying car that can fold up into a briefcase is still far from reality, they have managed to build a flying car that is in space now. In reality, the world today has been transformed in ways that we never imagined. Growing up, I never thought that there would be invisible machines such as Alexa, Siri, and Nest at work around us, and I definitely never dreamed that we might one day share the world with robot citizens and like those featured at this year’s Olympic Games.
The 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang were very different from those of previous years, as they weren’t just about athletes winning medals or some controversial moments, they were also about robots. There were robots skiing down the slopes and carrying the iconic flame—in fact, there were robots doing almost everything. From practical guide robots helping people find directions at airports, stadiums, and other event venues; to robotic fishes swimming in water-filled tanks for entertainment; to robots painting murals, handling transportation, doing cleaning, and delivering goods, a total of 85 robots managing various tasks certainly didn’t go unnoticed.
The PyeongChang Olympics allowed people to watch the future of sports and events industries literally taking shape in front of their eyes. The event raised the curtain on what is coming our way over the next few years in the form of how we consume services, utilities, transportation, and logistics. Just as labor-saving devices such as washing machines, vacuums, radios, TVs, fridges, and freezers made our lives easier, machines of the future will follow a similar trajectory, with the promise of even greater enjoyment. The personal robots that are already out are just the beginning.
As machines become more intelligent, they will transform our society and become the ‘actors’ in future cities, industries, and work environments. They will impact a number of industry sectors by providing care for aging populations, creating safer transport, enabling more efficient healthcare, increasing productivity levels, making deep-sea exploration possible, saving human lives by reducing risky work, and addressing the societal issues that we haven’t been able to address for decades. We need machines in the future that will serve us better than we can serve ourselves. But hold onto your horses if you think that this means the machine uprising is just around the corner: This video of skiing robots falling on their faces or requiring humans to physically stop them, might give you a good laugh and a little dose of reality. While there are certainly some ambitious machines in the making today, in actuality, we are not even close to the technological marvels promised in our favorite sci-fi movies.
The machine future is here, yet while we may witness machines snowboarding and ice skating along with humans in the next Olympics, most new machines aren’t off the bunny hill yet—and that’s just fine for now.