You can probably get a lively conversation going on the subject of robot nurses. There are many people who believe that the kindness of human nurses is a bona fide part of their job description. Robot teachers, too, can get a strong response from people who see the human connections between teachers and students as an important part of human development.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are bomb defusing robots. People are very thankful for them. And hardly anyone would argue against automation in an automobile factory.
Still, there are jobs where automation can both put people out of work and yet not get people very excited. Field marking is one of those.
What’s field marking?
The markings on a sports field have to be laid down by someone. Typically, it’s done by someone walking behind a machine known as a walk-behind system, like a push lawnmower. Lots of large fields to mark? You might choose a ride on system, like a ride-on lawnmower. Aerosol, low pressure, or high pressure airless paint cans deposit the lines as the humans guide the machines.
That’s more automated than walking along with a can of paint and a paintbrush, but it’s still largely human-powered. The paint can and paint brush may be brought out for letters and numbers, though that may also involve stencils and sprayers.
Now, however, you can step up to a fieldmarking robot.
Why use a robot?
The Turf Tank, to choose one example, can mark a football field in a little more than three hours. It takes one person about two minutes to set it up. And the results look great. Apart from making sure it doesn’t run out of paint, you can just leave the Turf Tank to do the work while you do something else.
With human field markers, you would normally need several workers for a total of about 20 man-hours. That includes measuring, so subsequent markings of the same field may be quicker, but it has to be done frequently. Your automatic field painter can save the information about a field and automatically repaint it precisely with no additional preparation. The robot field marker uses GPS positioning to begin. with, so you can feel confident about its calculations.
We’ve read about field marking companies going out of business because team owners, schools, and the like switch to a robot. “’I’ve got a robot now, appreciate what you’ve done all these years but…’ ” said one human field marker, describing his conversations with clients who decide to go with a robot.
He’s going to retire.
But there is no suggestion that anyone misses the special artisanal quality of hand-lined sports fields. Nor that it’s a relief that people no longer have to do that backbreaking work. Nobody sees to be sentimental about the loss in either direction.
Perhaps as time goes on, this will become the norm. Like switchboard girls, travel agents, data entry clerks, and elevator operators, jobs will fade away without anyone noticing very much.