Robots can play big role in homes

Robotics has come a long way, and can be found in sectors like healthcare, service and hospitality ("Living with robots"; July 9).

One area on which robotics can focus more is the domestic sector; perhaps robots can even replace foreign domestic workers (FDW).

Currently, a litany of human rights and social issues surround FDWs, including days off, living arrangements, ill treatment, privacy and exploitation.

Replacing them, either fully or in part, with robots will reduce these problems and open up a stream of new high-tech job opportunities. It will also help more women to return to the workforce.

A robotic domestic worker can do much more and work faster than its human counterpart. Its ability to communicate in a multitude of languages is also useful for this role.

At the moment, the cost of a robot may be high, but I believe that, as with all high-tech products, its cost will drop with mass production and as technology matures.

A sharing economy model can be adopted as well, to help poorer households.

Besides the domestic sector, construction, which also faces similar human rights and social problems, can also benefit from robotics.

The sector is now employing initiatives to boost productivity, and robotics can surely play a big part in time to come.

Going the robotics way will make the engineering field great again, and add it to the pool of professions sought after by top brains.

For a successful transition to this high productivity, low manpower model, government support and participation is imperative, not only to inject funds but also to help establish business models or opportunities for robot manufacturers to do "robot leasing".

Seow Joo Heng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2016, with the headline 'Robots can play big role in homes'. Print Edition | Subscribe