Betty the Robot Starts Two Month Trial as Office Manager

Josh Luckenbaugh | June 15, 2016

It's happening, folks. The robot takeover has begun. 

Betty, a robot developed at the University of Birmingham, began a two-month trial as a office manager at The Transport Systems Catapult in Milton Keynes on Wednesday and has already been given plenty of responsibility.

According to The Mirror, "Betty will carry out tasks including patrolling the offices, assessing how many staff members are in the office outside work hours, monitoring the environment by collating data on clutter, office temperature, humidity and noise, [...] checking fire doors are closed and desks are clear," and "will also be tasked with greeting guests at reception."

In other words, Betty sees all and knows all, and can easily plan her evil uprising whenever she wants. And an explanation of her innerworkings is less than reassuring.

According to NDTV, her "software enables her to proces all the information she needs to map and navigate her environment, learning as she does so. Using cameras and scanners she is able to create a map of her surrounding area, identifying desks, chairs and other objects that she must negotiate when she is moving around, as well as detecting people's movement through activity recognition."

Have none of these people seen "Age of Ultron?" Teaching a robot how to learn and adapt to their environment seems like a risky proposition. Don't step a toe out of line, because Big Betty is watching.

In fact, one of her creators was assuring that Betty has no dastardly agenda, and that her learning capabilities are necessary:

"She's not spying on anyone," Dr. Nick Hawes, who worked on Betty as part of the STRANDS project at the University of Birmingham, said to The Telegraph. "We've gone through a lot of ethics committees to get to this point...We're really trying to show that robots can learn over long periods in their environment. For robots to work alongside humans in normal work environments it is important that they are both robust enough to operate autonomously without expert help, and that they learn to adapt to their environments to improve thier performance."

I wonder if Hawes will say differently after Betty has learned all she needs to know and seizes control of the planet. Where's Sarah Connor when you need her?

Check out video of Betty in operation below, and tell me it doesn't make your skin crawl just a little to see a robot sneak up on someone working at their desk: