“Many of us will live to see the day where we have physical, non-human colleagues,” says Matt Beane, a researcher at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Beane’s research addresses what he calls “The Avatar Economy”, where remote workers operate robots. Such robots are already used for tasks which require highly skilled labour and physical presence but where it’s either too dangerous or extremely expensive to use human beings. Aerial and ground-based robots were used in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, for example, to help assess system and structural integrity and evaluate demolition plans. According to Beane, the next wave of robotic workers will be in retail, security and remote supervision of manufacturing operations. Telepresence robots like those made by DoubleRobotics (and their human operators) will help you to find the right TV in a retail store or allow an operations supervisor in Chicago to do quality control on an assembly line in Shanghai.