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Tomorrow's Engineers Week encourages learning about AI

Working with robots will be inevitable in the future, say professors, so school children should consider learning about how they work now

Posted by Charley Rogers | September 25, 2017 | Events

Voice-activated personal assistants are a relatively new phenomenon in the home, with Amazon Alexa celebrating its third birthday during Tomorrow’s Engineers Week (6th November). Yet, the awareness of voice-activated personal assistants among young people is vast, with only 2% saying they haven’t heard of them.

Two fifths (41%) of young people have a voice-activated personal assistant on their phone and a quarter (23%) have one at home (such as Amazon Alexa, Samsung Smart Home and Google Home Assistant), yet 35% of young people say they do not feel adequately prepared for working with technology and computers in the future.

The research, commissioned by EngineeringUK ahead of Tomorrow’s Engineers Week, reveals how school children (aged 9-18) and working adults, feel about living and working with robots.

In contrast to the traditional image that is conjured up of robots, Angelo Cangelosi, Professor in Artificial Intelligence and Cognition at the University of Plymouth, and Director of its Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems, said:

“Robots of today are a fascinating preview of how we might be living our lives tomorrow. From companions capable of reading our expressions and remembering previous conversations, to domestic home-helps that can go to the shops for us, it is really just a matter of time until we see ‘deep learning’ technologies being integrated into robotics that will transform their capabilities.”

The research suggests that children may need to think more carefully about their GCSE and A Level options to prepare them for the world of work. What’s clear is that almost every job will require a degree of understanding about how robots and AI work. - James Law, Senior Experimental Officer, Sheffield Robotics

Research findings reveal:

·         8% of young people admit they already speak to their voice-activated personal assistant like a friend.

·         14% of adults recognise they have used a robot in their home

·         38% of adults have used a voice-activated-personal-assistant in their home. This includes using it to play music (31%), to search the Internet (26%), to control household functions (15%) and to add items to diaries, set reminders or alarms (9%).

With Artificial Intelligence transforming the workplace at a staggering rate, the research reveals a third of young people (34%) actively welcome the opportunity to work alongside robots while 29% anticipate that robots will take on the mundane jobs that humans don’t want. Only 14% of young people feel nervous about robots being used in the workplace, with girls more so than boys (19% and 9% respectively).

In contrast, 28% of adults welcome the idea of robots assisting them in the workplace, however 38% aren’t sure how a robot could help in their job, rising to 50% of respondents aged 45 and over. Mirroring the number of young people, 14% of adults feel nervous about robots being used in the workplace, with 8% saying they’d object to having them there.

Experts from leading UK universities have compiled their advice on living and working with robots and AI. These include:

1.    Get to know the robot to understand what it can and cannot do. The more you understand robots and AI, the more you will get out of them.

2.    We can achieve more by working together: Robots and AIs have limitations; they can help us with some tasks, but need our help with others.

3.    Keep your personal information secure. Robots and AIs can be hacked, just like other computer systems.

4.    Regularly turn the robot off (and the internet/email/surfing) to enjoy social interractions with other humans.

The full advice is available from tomorrowsengineers.org.uk.

James Law Senior Experimental Officer at Sheffield Robotics – part of the University of Sheffield – advises all students and employees to embrace future technology:

“Robots today are being designed to do dull, repetitive, dangerous, and time-consuming jobs that will free up our time for more rewarding activities. The more users embrace the technology, the more they will get out of it.”

Engineers are, and will continue to be, at the forefront of technological innovation such as robots and AI, developments which will play an increasing role in all of our personal and working lives. - Beth Elgood, Director of Communications, EngineeringUK

“Whilst robots will be helpful in many roles, they will still struggle with things that we find easy. By working together, robots and humans will be able to achieve more than we would alone.

“The research suggests that children may need to think more carefully about their GCSE and A Level options to prepare them for the world of work. What’s clear is that almost every job will require a degree of understanding about how robots and AI work, so in that sense it has never been more important that young people consider engineering in their careers.

“From fighting diseases and recovering from natural disasters to renewable energy and manufacturing, engineering is a way for young people to pursue their interests. Tomorrow’s Engineers Week will be a vital part of helping young people pursue their dreams.”

Beth Elgood, Director of Communications at EngineeringUK, said:

“Engineers are, and will continue to be, at the forefront of technological innovation such as robots and AI, developments which will play an increasing role in all of our personal and working lives. Tomorrow’s Engineers Week is an important part of the drive to inspire the next generation of engineers and will this year see a network of over 300 employers, schools and professional engineering institutions working together to do just that.”

Tomorrow’s Engineers Week (#TEWeek17) will take place between 6-10 November 2017. Find out more about what engineers can achieve at tomorrowsengineers.org.uk    

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