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Future office: Where your desk will order your lunch

Hollywood would have us believe that the offices of the future will involve robots bringing us coffee and scheduling our meetings - and they are not far off.

While androids like those seen in the film I, Robot might not be walking around the office delivering lunches, experts told CNBC artificial intelligence (AI) systems aimed at boosting productivity could be used in the office or factory floor.

Arranging meetings is one of those areas. The back-and-forth tussle of trying to find a location and time to meet clients wastes up to four hours average every week, according to the founder of Skedool.it, a service that allows people to autonomously arrange meetings.


Japanese electronics giant Hitachi introduces the new version of the company's humanoid robot 'EMIEW 2'
YOSHIKAZU TSUNO | AFP | Getty Images
Japanese electronics giant Hitachi introduces the new version of the company's humanoid robot 'EMIEW 2'

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A user signs up and then gets an email address which they copy into correspondence with the people they are trying to set a meeting up with. The personal assistant, called Alex, then learns the user's behavior, preferences and schedule to arrange a meeting with another person.

"If you are scheduling tasks, you are probably in a skilled role and you think it's probably something you shouldn't be doing. You time is better served doing other things more critical to your profession," Deepti Yenireddy, CEO of Skedool.it, told CNBC in an interview at tech show Pioneers Festival in Vienna on Thursday.

"We are trying to eliminate the human effort."

Using AI to help increase productivity in the workplace is an area major tech companies from Google to Microsoft are exploring. The Google Now app as well as Microsoft's personal assistant Cortana are examples of this - software that attempts to learn human behavior and adapt in some way to suit that, such as recommending news articles a user might like to read.

Other smart-scheduling companies include Meeter and Timeful, which was recently acquired by Google.

'Fun and games'

And the capabilities of such technology is continuously advancing. Another company showing off its wares at Pioneers Festival is Robotbase - a start-up that has designed a desk that can change height depending on the user's preference. It learns what the user likes at different times in the day and also has a built in personal assistant which you can talk to. That feature - much like Apple's Siri - will carry out functions such as booking a meeting or ordering your lunch.

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At the moment, experimenting with robotics and AI in the office is just "fun and games", according to one expert and the real benefit to businesses will be when machines can fully automate tasks.

"The really big thing for me for offices is the idea that those intelligent systems enhance the productivity of high value specialist workers by removing the extraneous stuff they do," Matt Guest, head of Deloitte's digital strategy practice in EMEA, told CNBC in an interview.

Robots taking jobs

Still the use of AI in the workplace has caused major concerns among some of the world's top thinkers about what it could do to the workforce. Bill Gates, Elon Musk and famed scientists Stephen Hawking are all worried about robots taking over human jobs and causing a huge shift in the labor force.

During new phases of technology, certain jobs are overtaken by machines but those workers normally retrain and re-enter the workforce. But with AI taking over more complex jobs, retraining workers for even higher skilled roles could be difficult, experts say.

"Now cognitive works are being outsourced to robotics and AI, it is much harder for those people that have a standard education, or rudimentary understanding of how to fill out a spreadsheet to retrain quick enough," Lawrence Lundy, ICT consultant at Frost and Sullivan, told CNBC by phone.

"Those people will find new jobs but it will take a longer time than before.

Will companies spy on you?

The cost of rolling these advanced systems out as well as the backlash from workers could be potential stumbling blocks for businesses adopting this technology.

Lundy expects privacy - a major issue among employees today - to be less of an issue in the future as younger people enter the workforce.

"People understand Facebook and Google have the data but they get enough value to live with it. Enterprise will be the same. There will be no backlash and it will eventually be part of the work contract," Lundy said.

By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal, follow him on Twitter @ArjunKharpal.