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The Future Is Here: Robots Are Getting Jobs

"Hello I'm Techi, your service robot, please take your food."

By the end of the year a squat, white and grey robot with electronic eyes will be what greets guests when they order room service at Park Avenue Rochester Hotel in Singapore.

It is the third robot to work at the hotel which, like many businesses in Singapore, is battling with the growing problem of finding workers.

Government quotas mean seven local staff must be employed to every foreigner in the services sector.

"With the quota even we cannot find staff," Danielle Gao Dan, general manager of Unitech Mechatronics, the creator of another service robot - Uni-bot - told AAP.

"In Singapore the reality is that some jobs will be taken by robots. The only question is who will take the market and in what kinds of ways."

At Park Avenue Rochester Hotel, two platform-like Techi robots have been proving their worth since July.

They don't have the eyes, voice or character of their front of house sibling.

Their job is to cart trolleys laden with fresh linen to various levels at midnight, before returning hours later to pick up dirty sheets from the 29 attendants who clean 311 rooms.

"We actually calculate just to save travelling time (in the lifts) we can cut down three full-time employees," the hotel's general manager Ryan Sun said.

Across the city at Chilli Padi Nonya Cafe near the National University of Singapore another company's creation - Uni-bot - has landed a job.

Perched on four wheels with a "cute" round head, Uni-bot asks diners to fill its tray with unwanted cutlery, plates and bowls which it then delivers to the kitchen.

The third generation robot is less chatty than its predecessors, Ms Dan explained.

"At first we had the robot saying a lot of things, 'Hello. Welcome. Nice to meet you'."

"We found if he is talking and talking and talking he can't do his work."

This coupled with other modifications - like using locators instead of lasers for navigation - is helping the company create what they see as Singapore's upcoming workforce.

The government announced $S450 million ($A437 million) in funding over the following three years in this year's budget to support their National Robotics Programme - providing subsidies and grants to creators and businesses.

It estimates the global market in robotics will quadruple to $A106 billion by 2025, and promotes the idea that the machines will enable workers to take on higher value, more productive jobs.

"I foresee we should be able to use them (robots) as a bellhop to carry the luggage for the guests ... The robot at night should be able to double up as a security officer as well," Mr Sun from Park Avenue Rochester Hotel said.

As to how they rate as employees: "so far they are quite loyal", he laughed.


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