Customers watch a robot that now greets customers at the Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo.  (Shizuo Kambayashi/AP)

Here’s a look at five things impacting the way we live, work and play.

1. Technologies replacing humans try to emulate humans

It’s increasingly easy to go about your daily life with minimal interaction with real human beings. Chances to exchange small talk or a friendly smile are evaporating as businesses automate their services to be more efficient and profitable. You can stay home, and order everything you need online. If you call a business, you’ll likely get an automated recording, encouraging you to press 1 for this or 2 for that.

Let’s say you do leave your home. Many businesses now have self checkout options, and those will likely grow. Jeffrey Sachs has warned that coffee shops will soon do away with baristas.

This robot's skin has been made to mimic real human skin. Its face includes 40 motors that allow it to make human-like expressions. Hanson Robotics showed it off last week in Hong Kong. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters) This robot’s skin has been made to mimic real human skin. Its face includes 40 motors that allow it to make human-like expressions. Hanson Robotics showed it off last week in Hong Kong. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Even social meccas like bars and pubs could be at risk. Royal Carribean has a robotic bartender on its newest cruise ship. According to this Wall Street Journal article on the rise of robotic bartenders, the Kentucky Derby will feature 10 tabletop devices for visitors to have drinks auto-served to them.

It’s incredibly appealing for businesses to outsource work from humans to machines, provided the machine is cheaper and does the job well enough. A 2013 Oxford study argued that 47 percent of current U.S. jobs could be automated.

This raises the question, will there be backlash? Will we ever start demanding “organic” real interactions, or will the tradeoff of a cheaper product make it worth it?

So it’ll be interesting to watch the emergence of robots built to look and act like humans. Early versions are popping up around the world. They likely won’t fool us anytime soon into thinking they’re human. But with the rapid advances in technology due to Moore’s Law, perhaps one day we’ll get used to chit-chatting about the weather with a robotic cashier.

2. Google to launch its own wireless service. From The Wall Street Journal:

The service is expected to allow customers to pay only for the amount of data they actually use each month, people familiar with the matter said—a move that could further push carriers to do away with lucrative “breakage.”

Many traditional wireless plans require subscribers to pay for buckets of data that expire at the end of each month. A 2013 study by a company called Validas, which analyzes consumers’ bills to help them choose the right plan, says smartphone users typically waste $28 each month on unused data.

3. Protecting a marathon from unwanted drones. Via Popular Science:

To protect this year’s Boston Marathon runners and spectators from drone-borne threats, a Washington, D.C.-based company patrolled the event with drone-detecting sensors and net guns. …

DroneShield’s system to counter unmanned aerial vehicles consisted mainly of audio detectors, designed to pick up on the specific sounds made by the small remotely piloted craft, with programs to filter out false positives. For this year’s marathon, DroneShield placed 10 sensors along the marathon route.

4. The Hubble Space Telescope turns 25. Via Joel Achenbach:

The Hubble helped change our understanding of the age of the universe, the evolution of galaxies and the expansion of space itself. Along the way it has had the equivalent of knee and hip replacement surgery: Five times, astronauts on the space shuttle paid a visit to swap out old batteries and install new instruments, including, in 2009, the best camera the telescope has ever had. …

“This is 1970s technology, and it is still, after 25 years, the most powerful scientific instrument in the world,” said astronomer Patrick McCarthy, who’s working on the Giant Magellan Telescope under construction in Chile.

5. A home battery pack from Tesla. Given that they already produce batteries for SolarCity, it’ll be interesting to see if the April 30 news will offer any new wrinkles. From The Wall Street Journal:

Tesla’s Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk had previously announced through Twitterthe company would announce a new product line—not a vehicle—on April 30. There is an event planned at Tesla’s Hawthorne, Calif.-based design studio to unveil the product. Mr. Musk had previously said the company was working on a stationary battery storage product. In addition, Mr. Musk has said the company could produce batteries at its so-called gigafactory, which is under construction in Nevada, for this same market.