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## Robots on TV

February 4, 2013

Verizon and GE have produced television advertisements that include robots. The ads are playing frequently and nationally. They are good, they’re being talked about and tweeted, audiences like them, and they are great promotional pieces for the robotics industry. The ads are indicative of PR and advertising agencies’ growing awareness that people are becoming at ease with robots in their everyday life, hence the inclusion in their advertisements.

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Verizon uses a series of four ads to show how employing their network breaks the barriers of distance. Entitled “Technology That Breaks Boundaries,” Verizon shows how their advanced tools are able to push large amounts of streaming data through their network. Two of those ads include VGo Communications’ VGo mobile telepresence robots. One ad shows how kids far away from the ocean participated in a field trip to an ocean aquarium; the other ad shows a young home-bound student remotely attending and participating in a class. Both ads are informative, inspiring and memorable.
VGo Communications is partners with Verizon and integrates Verizon’s 4G LTE technology into their VGo robot.
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GE is using their ads to look at the bigger picture occurring in industry today: managing and analyzing huge streams of digital data in a search for quality, productivity and effectiveness. Their corporate philosophy of the Power of 1 is a predicate for the ads: by productivity increases or energy savings of just 1%, enormous industrial savings can happen: 1% fuel savings in aviation could save $30 billion over 15 years; 1% productivity improvement in healthcare equates to$63 billion in savings over the same period. They developed a series of ads on digital workflow to show how these productivity enhancements can occur: with brilliant machines and creative data management and data mining. Two of the ads in the series include robots. The ad shown above is the most interesting.
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Many robotics industry professionals who saw the January CBS News 60 Minutes segment about robots were disappointed in the piece because it appeared to say that robots took away jobs while also showing some of the most impressive new robotic technologies at work (and described in terms of displacing jobs). Just like they teach in Public Relations 101, you measure publicity by the pound (implying that there’s no such thing as bad press). That could be true in this case: lots of people were talking about the show – but they were also seriously thinking and talking about a different and very sensitive subject in America: an assumption that productivity enhancements takes away jobs.
The advertisements by GE and Verizon, on the other hand, are positive, favorable, and stimulate the public’s imagination about the value of robots and robotics in everyday life. Perhaps they can help cleanse the bitter taste left from the 60 Minutes show.

Less serious but indicative of the prevalence of robots on TV is a recent Daily Show with Jon Stewart segment ridiculing an excerpt from the CBS 60 Minutes segment above:

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Frank Tobe is the owner and publisher of The Robot Report, and is also a panel member for Robohub's Robotics by Invitation series... read more

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