Dubai Diaries: When a robot delivers pizza

We can expect advanced technology to take over many more parts of our life soon.

Picture for illustrative purposes.
Picture for illustrative purposes.

Kirstin Bernabe

Published: Wed 9 Feb 2022, 10:11 AM

I was brushing my hair when the doorbell rang. I knew it was my seven-cheese pizza — so I fished out a Dh5 bill from my wallet for the rider who came all the way to our desert village just to bring me my lunch. But when I opened the door, the pizza box was already at our doorstep and no one was there — except a robot rolling away. It was a dream. But it won’t be long before it happens, my husband said.

Soon enough, we will be hailing driverless cabs, and I’m not sure I’m ready for it. I like chatting up cab drivers on sunny days. ‘Where are you from? How long have you been in Dubai?’ Some would share a thing or two about their families back home, while others could talk for half an hour about their Filipino friend. I will certainly miss such conversations.

The world is changing fast, and living with a tech guy in a smart city makes it seem a whole lot faster. Though he can’t share the amazing things he’s doing at work (because he knows I’ll smell a story even from the most boring update) — I get a front-row seat when he’s developing mini projects for his master’s classes.

Just a few weeks back, he was ‘training’ an artificial intelligence (AI) model to accurately identify the number of free slots at a mall’s parking area — brilliant! Come to think of it, those counters that tell you there are XXX vacant slots in this area, do they really work?

As the person assigned to look for a parking space when my husband is driving, I can tell you, the numbers are a sham. Sometimes, the sensor above the space is green because it cannot detect the small car that takes up only half the slot. The AI solution was very simple, but it can make a big difference.

There are a gazillion more innovations out there, some being developed even by kids in school. The future is exciting. I’m not sure how fast I’ll be able to adapt, but I’m trying not to be like my dad — who never trusted paperless transactions.

Instead of transferring money to my bank account, he would rather drive to an ATM machine, withdraw, and hand me the cash. When paying bills, he would look for a counter where an actual person would be ready to take his payment and give him a receipt. Those payment counters are now extinct, though, so, he’s left with no choice but to get used to going virtual.

In the middle of this tech revolution, I just hope we don’t lose touch of each other. I hope we keep meeting and smiling at strangers as we go about our day. Sometimes, a nod or a wave is all it takes to make people feel we care. I wish we continue to feel each other’s kindness and express our gratitude. The Dh5 tip I fished out of my wallet for my pizza delivery guy — will a robot appreciate it?

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