Robots aren't the future, they're already here!

Robots aren't the future, they're already here!

July 11, 2017 3:00 AM

As the national gaming economy continues to prosper in most jurisdictions, trained workers will be harder to find. While the casino/resort business booms, this trend will surely translate to employees seeking larger salaries and more benefits. Competition among companies for skilled workers and even unskilled workers will be brutal, just as it was before the economic downturn ten years ago.

The casino/resorts are being forced to find new ways to keep their operations growing and thriving.

Last week in this space I wrote about casino dockworkers receiving mammoth amounts of goods every resort needs nearly every day of the year. As I said, help is on the way for receiving dockworkers and for many of the departments of the modern-day casino resort.

It’s called robotics.

As the software company Aethon describes it, “these mobile transport vehicles can navigate the existing facility without human intervention and within programmed constraints to deliver and transport materials.”

After seeing one of these robots in operation and viewing some videos, I’ll endeavor to tell you how the technology works and how it will be implemented.

First, I’d like to remind you there’s no stopping technology and that includes self-driving vehicles, robots and the like. An entirely robotic bar opened in Las Vegas just last week. The robotic arms expertly make your cocktail and you swipe your plastic to pay. You won’t be able get a larger shot in your cocktail and they’re won’t be bartender to tell your troubles to at this bar.

We can lament the jobs robotics will take from living, breathing workers. However, as any engineer will tell you, the idea is to free up humans for more productive tasks machines cannot do. If we stand in the way of new technology, we’ll be trampled.

I tried and I was.

A company called Service Tracking Systems (STS) working with Aethon, conducted the demonstration I saw, using its Autonomous Delivery System called Servii. I watched as the battery-charged unit that resembles a small, one-legged, pallet jack, following it’s computer programmed commands, approached a heavy luggage cart, picked it up and efficiently headed to a freight elevator to deliver the suitcases to a storage area on the specific floor or even right to a room.

The robot can let you know via your cell phone or a house phone that it’s at your door and you’re all set. The device I saw has sensors to stop it if I stepped in its way and it got back to work when I got out of its path.

The advantages of the system include a significant labor reduction and faster service. For example, a bellman could be assigned several floors of a resort and be ready to deliver the luggage when the robot brings it up. It’s all about efficiency.

Don’t fret, the robot knows how to call the freight elevator and access the correct floor. It’s amazing stuff.

STS hopes to use the technology and the robots for room service, employee tracking and other functions. Housekeeping carts, loaded with its supplies and fresh bedding can be transported by robots and deployed to each floor. Staff needs to merely join their cart on the assigned floor and start work.

Numerous hospitals nationwide are using what Aethon calls its TUG system in which carts full of medicine, linens and other supplies navigate a hospital hallway stopping at each room where “robots can resolve a multitude of delivery challenges” for doctors and nurses.

Aethon boasts its autonomous systems, now in use in many hospitals nationally, assist with medication delivery, lab specimen delivery, food preparation and delivery, and outbound removal of trash and other items. They say the automation reduces staff and improves efficiency.

STS with Aethon wants to adapt the hospital uses to casino/resorts.

Both companies want their robots to do the dirty work and heavy lifting so employees can do something else. Right now, the robots can haul up to 1,400 pounds and operate continuously for up to 10 hours. They weigh 320 pounds (without payload) and use four rechargeable 12-volt batteries.

This is not technology that is on the way. It’s here and in use at numerous major medical centers nationwide, including the Veteran’s Administration Hospital right here in Las Vegas.

Nevada casino/resorts are in the business of innovation. It’s among the many things they do better than anyone else, anywhere else. For better or worse, we’ll being seeing more and more robotic applications very, very soon.

It’s not coming. It’s here.