Charlie Chaplin in ‘Modern Times’ being fed by a futuristic robot in a clumsy, yet dominating manner, was the opening scene of the Empowered by Robots conference held on October 25 at Klokgebouw, in Eindhoven. Chaplin confronts us with our fear for upcoming technologies. Koert van Mensvoort, Next Nature Network director and moderator of the event, opened the congress with this video to prove the contrary: we need to take the best features of humans and robots and demonstrate we can become colleagues.
During the afternoon has been focused on getting inspiration to design the office of the future. To discard our robot fear, philosopher and professor Jos de Mul explained how we can learn from robot-loving countries like Japan. The working environment of the future got organized by researcher and entrepreneur Saskia Nijs, who pointed out topics such as shortening working hours and stimulating employees to uplift their personal qualities. Then, the office has been redesigned by artistGovert Flint, with the aim to create a place able to stimulate all our senses.
Biomechatronics professor Arno Stienen showed how robotics can empower humans, showing how robotics are helping people to recover from certain injuries. However, before we can build a career, we have to go to school. Therefore, Robbert Coenmans, researcher from ReflecT (Tilburg Research institute for Flexicurity, Labour Market Dynamics and Social Cohesion), illustrated how the Dutch province of Brabant is stimulating the robotic agenda of educational programs. To conclude, Jos Verhoeven from the Start Foundation explained how technology can empower people who are experiencing disadvantages to work in the Dutch labour market. He invited Staf Depla, alderman of the city of Eindhoven, to get a haircut from hairdresser Peter, who has two paralyzed legs. Luckily, he is able to keep his job using an augmented custom made wheelchair.
At the very end of the conference Koert van Mensvoort and Jos Verhoeven announced an open call to all creative thinkers to envision the job of the future. The 20 best submissions will be exhibited at Hubot, the job agency for humans and robots during the Dutch Design Week 2017. You can apply for the challenge here.