- I joined a virtual reality world that showed me what work is like after robots take over in 2050.
- After reporting doom-and-gloom stories about how automation will lead to lay offs and low pay, I found this humorous virtual reality of work surprisingly pleasant.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Since joining Business Insider a month ago, I’ve written a lot about how robots are changing work.
Automation could wipe out 1.3 million bank jobs in the next 10 years. New technologies are partly to blame for declining wage growth. Companies are investing in retraining programs to prepare employees for when robots take their jobs.
Instead of studying what could possibly happen when robots take over, I decided to flip the script and let robots tell me themselves. In other words, I played the virtual reality game “Job Simulator,” where robots in the year 2050 try to guess what work was like when humans were in charge.
Robots taught me how to do three jobs: be a chef, work a cash register, and perform mundane office tasks. While I’ve held one of those roles, I can say with certainty that robots of 2050 did not have a great understanding of the nuances of human labour. My first stint at virtual reality also included a lot of technical problems that Business Insider gaming reporter Kevin Webb patiently tried to sort through.
Here’s what happened when I tried to learn what working would be like after complete automation.
After looking around to gather HDMI cables, charged VR wands, headphones, and other miscellaneous tech, I finally got set up to play “Job Simulator” using Playstation VR.
When I first entered the game, I was greeted by a robot that told me I had 4 options for jobs I wanted to try out: a cook, a convenience store clerk, a car repairman, and a typical desk worker.
I mostly sit at desks all day, so I opted for what I felt I knew best: office worker. Seemed easy enough.
I got situated in front of a box computer from the 1990s. Also, I noticed all the “robots that took over” were speaking to me through box computers. Why did the tech look so backwards if I’m supposed to be in 2050? I was immediately confused.
Austin-based company Owlchemy Labs created Job Simulator in 2016. (The company recently released Vacation Simulator where robots guess how humans vacationed in the early 21st century.)
I stared at my screen for a while not knowing what I was supposed to do. I realised I just had to turn my head to see a box-computer-robot telling me to take a paper and find out my first task.
My first task was to make coffee and eat a doughnut. Simple enough — except I couldn’t figure out how to grab hold of the mug properly. I ended up spilling the coffee all over my power strip.
Business Insider reporter Ivan De Luce was not impressed.
I moved on to my next task: turning my computer on. I got the password and screen on, but the power button was located on a computer tower placed underneath my desk.
Again, I was confused by why I was used a computer from the 90’s.
My VR headset was not oriented properly, so I ultimately couldn’t reach the button using my wands. After struggling to turn my desktop on, I had to abort mission and try another job. I threw my desk ball cradle in frustration.
Next up: chef. I was in a kitchen where I got a sink that turned into a stove or a blender at the press of a button.
In 2050, laptops aren’t around but you can uninstall and reinstall sink pipes at the press of a button. Amazing.
I now had the hang of using my VR set, so this round went a lot quicker. I made eggs and bacon with ease, boiled water in 5 seconds, and made a tomato-carrot smoothie.
I’m not a chef, so I don’t know how accurate the work was, but this round ended up seeming the most realistic. Box-computer robots of the year 2050 did a good job figuring out how humans made food.
Next up, I decided to figure out how to be a convenience store clerk. I was placed behind a cash register of what appeared to be a 7-Eleven and had to ring up chips for a teenage robot.
The robot’s desktop-computer face hovered around the store wearing a baseball hat. Again, why do hover technology and box computers exist in the same universe? Also, the robot didn’t have hands – how did it put its hat on? Why does it need to wear clothes? If the robot that takes my job in 2050, I will be extremely surprised.
A robot told me to make hot dogs for customers, and I met my match again: the way I was facing didn’t allow me to grab frozen hot dogs from the freezer.
After struggling to re-orient myself for 20 minutes, my computer began to run out of battery and I had to stop playing Job Simulator. Unfortunately, I’ll never know what robots think mechanics do.
All in all, I wish my first experience with virtual reality didn’t have so many technical difficulties. That being said, I enjoyed the game’s silly take on automation.
Autumn Taylor, marketing director at Owlchemy Labs, told Business Insider that “Job Simulator” is supposed to be a lighthearted take playing on people’s’ expectations of work. The game turns the most simple, mundane tasks on their head: everyone goes to work every day, but having robots teach you how to make coffee in a virtual reality allows users to play with advanced tech in a fun way.
“Almost everyone can understand and relate to the job, which makes things even funnier when the robots get something wrong,” Taylor said in an email.
Anything closer to the reality that I’m going to be automated out of a job in 30 years would have freaked me out. I may not understand the floating desktop hat-wearing robots, but I wouldn’t mind seeing them around in 2050.
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