Nine Tasks Robots Can Do That May Surprise You

Machines can cook your dinner, fill your prescriptions, make your shoes and much, much more

SoftBank's humanoid robot "Pepper" can lead funerals. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/AFLO/Alamy Live News)
smithsonian.com

News of a Japanese robot conducting Buddhist funerals got us thinking about how our robot-filled future is fast becoming our robot-filled present. Robots—machines that can be programmed to perform complex human tasks (or tasks that humans can’t or shouldn’t perform)—are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, and are showing up in more unexpected areas of life. They staff hotel desks, fill pharmacy prescriptions, lead workout classes and patrol for sharks. Here’s a roundup of some of the coolest and most unexpected things robots can do for us these days. 

Fill Your Prescriptions

When the University of California San Francisco Medical Center brought in a “robot pharmacist” called PillPick to pick, count and package pills, its prescription error rate went down from nearly 3 percent to almost 0. The hospital also has robots that prepare IVs, and rolling robots that carry medicine, food and linens to patients’ rooms. As other hospitals adopt similar systems, some (human) pharmacists wonder if their days are numbered

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