‘Robot Assistants’ May Help Reinvent The Construction Industry

It is projected that robots would make the worldwide construction sector safer and more appealing to workers, hence alleviating a labor shortage in the United States of America. Construction has long been considered to be one of the most dangerous and inefficient human pursuits, particularly in developing countries. Its productivity falls substantially behind that of other sectors of the economy, and it struggles to recruit employees to professions that are frequently seen as physically demanding.

Automation and robotics on construction sites, according to Carol Menassa, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the College of Engineering, are essential if the construction industry is to benefit from the productivity gains that have reshaped other industries, such as manufacturing.

As she explained, “Construction is a far more dynamic and unpredictable environment than a factory, which is why we are attempting to redefine the balance between human and robot labor.” “The coexistence of humans and robots is essential; in fact, that is the foundation of what we’re doing right now.”

A new three-year initiative will match individuals with “interactive robot assistants,” who will be able to learn from humans by observing and listening to them, much like human apprentices. Construction labor might become less hazardous and physically demanding for people in the future, while still allowing us to make decisions and solve issues.

A machine learning system that will enable natural interaction-based learning is expected to be delivered by the conclusion of the project, as well as a set of publicly available instructional tools that will teach human workers how to utilize such systems efficiently.

Using this futuristic vision of construction, robots would perform physically demanding activities such as lifting bricks or moving sheets of drywall, while humans might determine the best approach to complete a certain work or make alterations when the final structure deviates from the original design. Currently, the research team is working on developing an experimental system that would allow people and robots to collaborate on simple activities such as hanging drywall panels and installing ceiling tiles.

In order to operate the robot, the system creates a virtual reality duplicate of the working site. Through the use of a virtual reality headset, the human operator interacts with the workplace, which seems to be a video game-like replica. Using a joystick-style controller and a pointer, the person instructs the system on what has to be done, such as picking up a sheet of drywall and aligning it on a studded wall, and the system executes the instructions. Based on these instructions, the robot devises the most efficient approach to do the task and creates a series of movements known as a motion plan to carry out the task. It then shows the operator its plan on a virtual replica of the task location that is shown on the computer screen.

At this stage, it is up to the human to assess whether or not the suggested strategy would accomplish the desired result. Depending on their preferences, they can either approve the plan as is or demand an entirely new plan. When a strategy has been agreed upon, the human instructs the robot to carry it out while simultaneously watching in near-real time as the robot completes the task.

Since in the future, human and robot employees may not always be in the same physical place, having a virtual reality experience will be essential for them. Workers may learn how their virtual orders translate into real action by combining on-site and virtual training. They can also learn how to collaborate with a robotic assistant to adapt when things don’t go as planned.

Kosta Kritikos,


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