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Web Summit 2016: Drones, Robots And ‘Fashionable’ Wearables

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Robots and AI’s future in the workplace, how drones can help Africa and Fossil CTO talks about the potential of wearables

The first Web Summit in Lisbon has seen appearances from some of the biggest names in technology, with discussions on artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing and fintech already taking place.

But several sessions have focused on other future technologies, namely drones, robotics and wearables.

Read More: Tech leaders talk AI, 3D printing and Fintech at Web Summit 2016

Robots will ‘share’ the work of humans

web-summit-2016-pepperRodolphe Gelin, chief science officer at Softbank Robotics, believes that if humans do their jobs well there is no danger of robots causing massive job cuts. He said robots can speed up processes and boost safety but will never replace humans.

He used medicine as an example, explaining that although robots could detect disease, they should not be responsible for the final diagnosis.

“We have to understand how to collaborate with the robots,” he said. “They are not designed to do everything themselves.”

Gelin added that some jobs would be created because humans would have to look after the robots and that developers would have to create artificial intelligence (AI) applications to fulfil the potential of robotics.

He was joined on stage by Pepper, a ‘friendly’ robot that greets guests at the entrance of shops.

“This robot is only one platform, you need the rest of the information to be useful,” said Gelin.

Kubo robot wins startup competition

The winning startup at Web Summit was in the field of robotics too. Kubo, a Danish firm, won €100,000 in funding to help bring its educational robot to market. It secured the support of a jury comprising three investors, fending off competition from 200 other firms.

Kubo was started with a desire to make programming more appealing to children. It is operated using cards which have instructions about what to do. The robot can detect basic signals such as arrows and colours.

The idea is that children will learn the order of instructions, so they understand the fundamental basics of coding.

“Young people just want to play football and have no interest in programming,” said Tommy Otzen, company CEO.

Kubo expects to build 5,000 robots this year and will start selling them in 2017 at €200 a pop

Africa’s first droneport

web-summit-2016-droneportThe world’s first droneport will be built in Rwanda with the aim of delivering goods between villages, which in Africa are often quite far apart and served by poor quality roads. Three will be built in the African country, the first of which has been designed by famous architect Sir Norman Foster.

Jonathan Ledgard, founder of the Redline Cargo Drone Network, believes drones can have as big an effect on the continent as cheap mobile phones.

“The two types of technology that will impact Africa are low cost robotics and artificial intelligence,” he said, adding that the ports would not be automated and have community services like a clinic.

“[Automation] makes no sense when there is so much unemployment,” said Ledgard. “What we want with these droneports is to have a relationship with the community.”

Fossil CTO talks wearable challenge

web-summit-2016-fossil-ctoDespite an apparent downturn in the smartwatch market, Fossil CTO Sonny Vu believes the wearable sector has plenty of potential.

“Wearables can do more than just send push-ups and notifications,” he said. “The challenge is [getting them] to do things [people] never imagined they could do.”

However he acknowledges some limitations like battery size, water resistance and a desire to make gadgets fashionable as well as functional.

“We are in a period of contradiction [with] wearables,” he continued. “There are devices that do many things but aren’t pretty so people don’t want to use them. The aim is to make a product that people like to use.”

“It is important to have something that is socially acceptable.”

Quiz: What do you know about wearables?

Information from our sister site B!T Magazine Portugal was used in this report