Economy & Politics

PodcastIs colleague robots our salvation?

Jörg HeynkesPhoto: André Bakker

Artificial intelligence, blockchain or social bots – the future is digital. But how digital is Germany actually? In the podcast “So techt Germany”, the best digital experts provide insights into the tech scene.

Humanoid robots are not a vision of the future. A variety of human-like machines already exist today. One of the best known is Pepper, which Jörg Heynkes developed with his company Entrance Robotics. He has human traits and sometimes shows human behavior, but at first glance he is clearly distinguishable from a “real” person, says Heynkes. Too great a resemblance made people feel unsettling. This phenomenon is known as the “Uncanny Valley”.

With the help of various audio and video sensors and knowledge from the cloud, Pepper can read human facial expressions and gestures and thus react to his counterpart. This makes it one of the “companion robots”. In order for it to pass on the correct information, it is specially programmed for each of its locations, for example in nursing homes. But here problems quickly arose: Pepper’s work in a nursing home was stopped. Heynkes says: “The first thing the data protection officer of the state of Lower Saxony called and said: ‘Tell me, folks, there is a camera in it!'” For that reason alone, the project was set back six months.

Nevertheless, Heynkes sees technology as the answer to the problems of our time and the future. One cannot wait until digital products have been completely developed. As technology advances, he explains, it needs to be brought to market as quickly as possible. Other companies should also internalize this idea. For Heynkes the question is whether the human species can survive.

According to Statista, there were 301 robots for every 10,000 people employed in the manufacturing industry in Germany in 2015. These are mainly used in the automotive and electrical industries. In other areas, such as nursing, there is currently little acceptance for robot technology and artificial intelligence. The subject of data protection plays an important role here. In a survey by Bearingpoint, 60 percent of the participants said they feared insufficient protection of their health data. Artificial intelligence is still used in care, for example in special care beds that patients can automatically reposition. After all: 20 percent of those surveyed would be willing to be cared for at the bedside by a care robot in the future.

He tells more about Pepper and how Heynkes imagines his dream robot in the new episode of “So techt Germany”.

You can find all episodes of “So techt Germany” in the n-tv app, at Audio Now, Apple Podcasts, Deezer, Soundcloud and Spotify. You can use the RSS feed for all other podcast apps. Take the feed URL and simply add “So techt Germany” to your podcast subscriptions.

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