Elisabeth Grosdhomme Lulin has been general manager of Paradigmes et caetera, a consulting firm based in Paris, since 1998. Paradigmes specialises in future search and innovation, using methodologies such as scenario planning, weak signals monitoring, role plays and simulations on the one hand, business model analytics, competitive mapping and design thinking on the other. Major clients include Total, Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, Veolia Environnement, Crédit Agricole, Vinci, Galeries Lafayette.
In addition to running Paradigmes, Elisabeth has been a member of the board of directors of Safran since 2011, SNCF Réseau and Elsan since 2015. She served as a board member of Société Générale from 2003 to 2013, Bongrain from 2007 to 2015 and Ciments Français in 2013-2014
Elisabeth chaired the board of directors of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle (ENSCI), France’s leading school of industrial design and innovation, from 2012 to 2014. She has been a board member of Institut Polytechnique LaSalle, an engineering school, since 2013.
Prior to founding Paradigmes, Elisabeth was junior adviser to Prime Ministers Edouard Balladur and Alain Juppé (1994-1995), then head of the communication and marketing department of INSEE, the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Research (1996-1998). She started her career at the Inspection Générale des Finances (1991-1994).
Q: What is your most recent project / news?
A: When it comes to robotics, the main focus of my work is not technology itself but its deployment: monitoring the enabling factors or, on the contrary, those that will slow or even block the wider take-up of devices. In this respect recent months have provided a wealth of events and decisions that help map advances as well as challenges.
They fall mainly into three categories: regulation, social acceptance and business models.
Regulation is catching up more rapidly than I would have thought. A prime example here is the adoption by UNECE, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, on March 23, 2016, of amendments to the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic that secures the legal framework for the deployment of self-driving vehicles.
Social acceptance is an on-going process. To name just one striking fact that gives food for thought, let us think of Microsoft AI chatbot Tay’s hectic 24-hour journey on Twitter: people challenged the AI in such a way as developers obviously didn’t fully consider when they designed it. This is a reminder that introducing robotics in our daily routines is not merely an engineering feat; it is also a social phenomenon, and we can’t take for granted that the public will always be benevolent or compliant.
As for business models, in most cases the economic equation is in favour of robotics, either for cost-effectiveness reasons or for the commercial upside of enhanced services to customers, even though upfront investments might be substantial. However, industries that have been pioneers in robotisation seem to have reached a threshold. Mercedes recently announced that they would shift back from robots to humans in part of the operations of assembling their high-end S-class cars as more flexibility is needed to accommodate the high degree of customization requested by clients.
Q: Could you tell us about a compelling use case using one of the robots that make the biggest impact on you?
A: I am particularly interested in exploring the issue of trust and empathy surrounding the use of robots. A key example here would be medical imagery. It is fair to say that AI is now more efficient than humans at interpreting medical images, be they from X-rays, CT scanners, MRI, ultrasound or else. IBM’s Avicenna project is a good illustration of where innovation is heading to in that field.
However there is an element of trust and empathy in the relationship between a patient and her medical doctor. Most of us, if diagnosed with a serious condition, would rather have a human telling them, not a computer.
This points to a scenario where the added value of the (human) medical doctor would be redistributed along the value chain from the middle segment (diagnosis, better performed by the robot) to both the upstream and downstream : upstream for prescribing the relevant tests and examinations, based on a global understanding of the person, her symptoms, her exposure to risks, etc ; and downstream for coaching a patient through the different steps of her medical journey, from discovering her condition to completing the therapy.
Q: What surprised you on the 2015 robotics market?
A: The experiment carried out by SNCF, the French national railways company, from December 2015 onwards, to have a humanoid robot Pepper welcome and inform travelers in three of its train stations.
The surprise was first to see a public service, which is usually considered to be quite conservative, innovate in such an iconic manner. Second, the three stations that have been selected for the experiment, Nort-sur-Erdre, Saumur and Les Sables d’Olonne, are located in small towns, far from high-tech hotspots or similar places where you could expect to find large numbers of early adopters. I don’t know what the experiment has resulted into, but I take it as a happy signal of the willingness to explore the potential of technology for the sake of improving the daily life of ordinary people.
Get a glimpse of the future of robotics
If you’d like to learn more about the future of robotics, I invite you to attend the Innorobo Keynote on May 25 in Paris: “Impact and challenges of the robotics revolution – Horizon 2030”. In the Foresight session, Rodolphe Gelin (Aldebaran Robotics), Corinna Lathan (AnthroTronix) and Prathima Manohar (The Urban Vision), chaired by Elisabeth Grosdhomme Lulin, will discuss:
- Do robots have to care for us? Be part of our lives?
- How will they affect the way we live (cities, hospitals, homes, etc.)?