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The Rise of Office Robotics - It's no longer science fiction...

When we hear the word ‘robot’, free-thinking machines like R2D2 and C3PO from Star Wars spring to mind. But robotics is very real and it’s here, from human-like machines to software-driven artificial intelligence. And it’s already found its way into the workplace.

According to The Future of Work report developed for Brother by trend-forecasting studio Envisioning Technology, robotics is set to become a more visible and integral part of our everyday working life. And not just in factories or on mass-scale production lines. It’s very plausible, that with the rapid evolution of technology, bots will become the new office bods.

While holographic suits and augmented reality bays will bring new meaning to ‘remote’ working, ‘telepresence robots’ could allow us to almost literally be in two places at once – humanoid bots with holographic projections on their faces getting office jobs done while human workers are away from the office.

It all seems very sci-fi, but it’s a reality that could come sooner than we think. Remember ‘Clippy’ – Microsoft’s overly diligent assistant sent to help us find our way around the MS Office suite (as well as test our patience)? He was made redundant in 2007, but with the rapid advancements in artificial intelligence, it’s only a matter of time before we see the next generation of very real virtual assistants.

We’ve already had a glimpse of the possibilities with Apple’s ‘Siri’, but even this faceless friend is fast becoming obsolete as newcomers make an appearance.

Take Denise (see video), for instance, developed by Brazil’s Virtual Human interface. She’s a photo-realistic, 16-million colour avatar who sits in your computer, ready to manage your diary, send emails, draw up itineraries, and undertake any number of other tasks for you. All you have to do ask.

The Denises of this world are starting to usher in what could soon be a robotic revolution. Some experts say that by 2019, office and consumer technology will grow seven times faster than robots for manufacturing. But like any revolution, its success will depend on how ready we are to embrace it. And, more profoundly, if workplaces want to.

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