Thursday 14 November 2019

Have a holly, jolly technological, robotic Christmas: Toy Show time!

Ryan Tubridy is about to kick off a free spending Christmas in a revived Ireland (for some).
Ryan Tubridy is about to kick off a free spending Christmas in a revived Ireland (for some).

BY david looby

FRIDAY night sees the official start of Christmas in Ireland when the Late Late Toy Show hits our screens with all the force of a saccharin Tubridy smile (and jumper!).

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about Christmas and have to admit to already sneaking a peak at the National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, which is up there with Home Alone and It's A Wonderful Life among my all time favourite festive films.

Chatting with a friend the other day the parent worrying term 'screen time' came up. He was concerned that his sons are never away from their phone and tablet screens and I - still reeling from The Little Fella and the Whirlwind Princesses' declaration earlier that day that their etchosketches were iPads - was afraid for their future social selves. A recent study said there is absoutely nothing wrong with children spending hours on end staring at screens. I do it for a living, aferall, like millions more. The study claims chidren can interact with their peers just as well online, as in person. With video technology and Skype capabilities maybe there is something to this, but my friend and I weren't so sure.,

Were we just pining for our own respective spent youths; halcyon days throwing sticks into streams, picking conkers, kicking ball up lanes trying to avoid dogsh**? Who knows!

Talking technology, have you heard that all our jobs are going to be obsolete in 20 years time. Yes those pesky robots, the ones James Cameron warned us about in Terminator back in 1984 (oh the perfect Orwellian irony), are going to take over the world.

Factory workers are going to be one of the first hit, followed by retail workers, truck drivers, fishermen, even medical staff will be getting the cold, metallic boot by C-3PO lookalikes. A programme on RTE last week called 'Will a Robot Take My Job?' threw up some interesting, worrying questions. With advances in Artificial Intelligence and the inevitable competition between 'superpower' states to make the smartest robot, quickest, it won't be long before we're dragged from our Fred Flintstone complacency and insouciance into a Jetson's like world of driverless cars, robot physios and Gordon Robot chefs.

Robots are now embedded with sophisticated intelligence, sensors and general high level contextual reasoning which means they can perform tasks previously the stuff of fiction. Yes, even today there are robots performing surgeries on humans. According to a recent survey, four million jobs in the British private sector could be replaced by robots in the next decade. That would impact on 15 percent of the current workforce and would have much the same impact here could be replaced by robots in the next decade.

Smyths Toys Superstores recently revealed their top toys list for this Christmas and lo and behold a robot is among them. Most of the list features noisy flashing toys, showing off miniscule technological advances on 2016's offerings. Cozmo is a robot with a 'unique personality' which evolves. Scary! He even expresses a wide range of real emotions in response to his environment. Santa brought a robo-dinosaur last year, who The Little Fella quickly christened Roar for his ear splitting guttual hootings. He's done a job on my head a few times but no dishes! The Finns are trialing a €500 a month payment scheme for unemployed people to see how they cope socially, mentally and with daily routines. Maybe we should do likewise!

Wexford People