Roadside Sign-Flippers? Robots Are Taking Their Jobs Too

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Source: Stealing Axion via YouTube

No job is safe.

You know those guys at the side of the road, tossing and flipping signs in the air trying to get you to go into that IHOP or get your car washed? Well those guys are now, sometimes, robots.

Here’s one advertising a tax service.

[Source: Joey Fines via YouTube]

Here’s one advertising for Little Ceaser's.

[Source: Stealing Axion via YouTube]

If you don't watch South Park, that little bit of incoherent babble you're hearing can be translated, "They took our jobs!" Isn’t it just a matter of time before we see robotic Statues of Liberty waving for hours on end?

And here’s another one trying to entice customers to get their windows tinted. And when I say “entice,” I mean that in the most practical of ways. The sun can be hazardously bright in some parts of the country.

[Source: Joey Fines via YouTube]

Admittedly, these aren’t the most sophisticated robots. Certainly nothing compared to a robot that can juggle five balls at the same time, they’re essentially mannequins with motorized arms. And while these roadside attention getters won’t tire out and won’t need bathroom breaks, I think at least some human sign-flippers can feel pretty secure for a while. Especially this guy. When robots start doing what he’s doing, they won’t be standing on the side of the road in front of Little Ceasers.

[Source: WHZGUD2 via YouTube]

Peter Murray

Peter Murray was born in Boston in 1973. He earned a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore studying gene expression in the neocortex. Following his dissertation work he spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow at the same university studying brain mechanisms of pain and motor control. He completed a collection of short stories in 2010 and has been writing for Singularity Hub since March 2011.

Discussion — 5 Responses

  • vmagna February 6, 2013 on 3:46 pm

    Yup this is pretty much the state of robots currently. Same as it ever was. Capable of just some mechanical maneuvers and simple cycle programming.

    Wake me up when they’re capable of doing anything that isn’t repetitive

    • Herbys vmagna February 12, 2013 on 12:24 am

      My Neatos are all but repetitive. They optimize their routes depending on changes in layout of the furniture, they adapt to new environments and sometimes they stop and look at me with their laser rangers in a creepy way.
      Yes, they are programmed, but they aren’t repetitive (other than in the sense of repeatedly leaving my house clean).

  • Brent Dixon February 8, 2013 on 12:12 am

    …but that’s okay.

  • Ron Rekowski February 11, 2013 on 1:38 pm

    This is not a robot. It’s a simple rotary motor that moves a sign. If this is a robot then so is my random orbital sander. If they did not have a dummy behind it would you still be calling it a robot?

  • Herbys February 12, 2013 on 12:22 am

    I don’t think robots can take these jobs, it would be illegal. Human signs are permitted and not taxed due to a “loophole” in the interpretation of free speech rights. If a robot takes that job, it will be taxed and subject to the limitations of any non-human road sign.