Betty: Robot Office Manager Begins Two-Month Trial, Artificial Intelligence Research Conducted In Workplace

A new office manager has been hired on a trial basis at the Transport Systems Catapult in Milton Keyenes in an attempt to determine if artificial intelligence can do the job better than a human can.

Betty the Robot will be on staff for a two-month trial period as she acclimates to the office environment and carries out tasks that are normally handled by a human counterpart. Some of the duties that Betty the Robot will be carrying out include regular patrols of the office spaces, keeping track of the number of employees that work after hours, collecting data regarding clutter, regulating the temperature in the office, measuring the noise and humidity levels, as well as ensuring doors are closed and desks are clean of clutter in the absence of workers, according to the Mirror.

Betty the Robot may actually be doing more work than her human counterparts, in less time. She will not complain about the workload and she will eagerly work beyond the normal 9-5 shift without worry of being impacted by stress, sickness, or other unexpected personal issues.

Betty the Robot was created by a team at the University of Birmingham and is guided by software that allows her to navigate the environment as needed and gather the data necessary to run all the commands she is expected to perform, according to NDTV.

Betty the Robot is equipped with multiple scanners and cameras that allow her to maneuver through her environment with ease and can create a memory of how the environment changes over time and anticipate future changes, such as when a door might open or anticipate the movement of the human employees. She can reportedly anticipate the changes from a time frame of milliseconds to months, making her quite adaptable.

Although Betty does not get tired, she is required to recharge. She will return to her docking station when needed and resume her duties shortly after.

Betty the Robot is part of the STRANDS project, which was funded by 7.2 million pounds to make the project come to fruition. The goal is to determine how artificial intelligence will work alongside humans in a controlled workplace, testing whether it will improve productivity or cause more distraction.

Nick Hawes worked on the STRANDS project and is excited to see how the experiment ends.

“For robots to work alongside humans in normal work environments it is important that they are both robust enough to operate autonomously without expert help, and that they learn to adapt to their environments to improve their performance.”

Hawes pointed out that the two months that Betty the Robot will be on staff, she will be working autonomously in an effort to measure how she adapts and allow data to be obtained to improve upon her and her software.

“We expect her to operate for two months without expert input, whilst using cutting-edge AI techniques to increase her understanding of the world around her.”

Mark Ruddy of the Transport Systems Catapult is excited to host Betty the Robot and feels Betty the Robot will feel right at home.

“At the TSC, innovation and new technologies are at the core of our business so we are excited to be hosting the STRANDS project. Thanks to our ongoing work on autonomous technology, Betty should feel right at home in the TSC’s facilities.”

If the experiment is successful, Betty the Robot may make appearances worldwide in various office spaces and other work environments in an effort to increase productivity by allowing the human employees to focus on more important tasks.

[Photo Via: @UniBirmingham/Twitter]

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