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.
Sew Your T-Shirt
For the past two years, a sewing robot ("sewbot') called LOWRY has been making t-shirts and other simple garments, making as many shirts in an hour as 17 human workers. LOWRY and similar systems stand to replace low-wage workers in places like Southeast Asia and move more production to the United States, a change which could have both upsides and downsides.