New breed of collaborative robots "work hand in hand" with humans

Mind-controlled robots

On Tuesday's episode of "Robotics Revolution," CBS News explores how robots can transform the way we live and work. 

An estimated 38 percent of American jobs are at "high risk" of automation by the early 2030s. Some cities, like Las Vegas, will be hit hard. Research shows that nearly two-thirds of all Las Vegas jobs may be automated by 2035. But what if machines could be a natural extension of us?

MIT hosted the brightest minds in tech on Monday, showing off the latest in artificial intelligence and robotics. One of the most notable and multi-dimensional advances is a way for humans and robots to safely join forces. CBS News' Dana Jacobson met one robot who works side-by-side with people. Another uses brain control to take cues from humans in order to complete tasks. Both robots are changing the workplace as we know it. 

"Well, this is our great innovation, YuMi, which means you and me," Sami Atiya said. "And it allows robots to work hand in hand with human beings." 

YuMi is what's called a "cobot," which is a new breed of collaborative robot that could revolutionize the assembly line. YuMi makes paper airplanes, solves the Rubik's cube and even helps a person with multiple sclerosis play chess. 

Baxter is a brain-controlled robot that could help humans think more and do less. 

"One idea that we kind of thought about was, well, can the Baxter robot help a human assemble Ikea furniture or something like this?" Stephanie Gil said. 

YuMi allows robots to work hand in hand with human beings.  CBS News

At MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, Gil and Andres Salazar are developing robots like Baxter, who can learn from his mistakes by reading your brainwaves and transmitting your thoughts. 

The researchers assure us they're not teaching robots to read our minds. But the lab's director, Daniela Rus, imagines the possibility of someday seeing man and machine work hand in hand. 

"A machine would be able to ready more radiology scans in a day than a physician will see in a lifetime," Rus said. "But the machine will not have the same kind of creativity. So, I like to think of machines and people as working together. Machines doing what they're best at and people doing what they're best at." 

Not everyone thinks it's a match made in heaven. Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently warned that artifical intelligence poses an "existential threat" to humanity. 

"Robots will be able to do everything  better than us," Musk said. "I mean all of us, you know."

"You can't stop technology from evolving and from changing the world," Rus added. "But we can anticipate the changes and we can put the rules in place to make sure that the changes are for the better." 

"It will take a lot of time for a robot to become human-like," Atiya said. "So, a robot to do this interview with you and go and then take a cab back home, you know, that will take decades." 

Atiya is the president of robotics and motion at ABB, the company that developed YuMi, the collaborative industrial robot. 

"I think what is important is that artificial intelligence is used as a tool," Atiya said. "And it's not a means by itself."

All the experts Jacobson spoke with this week say technological advancement isn't new. We've seen it over time from the agricultural revolution to the invention of the spreadsheet. They say as artificial intelligence gains steam and blue collar manufacturing jobs disappear, we will have to retrain workers to compensate, but the revolution will happen. You can find jobs, it's just the training needs to be there.