Robot Assistants, Coming to a Construction Site Near You

    With construction plagued by inefficiency, safety concerns, and labor shortages, the smart money is on robotics transforming the job site. The National Science Foundation, in particular, is betting $2 million on a consortium of researchers from the University of Florida, University of Michigan, and Washington State University, for their study pairing human workers with so-called “interactive robot assistants.” According to the University of Michigan’s University Record, the robots will learn how to learn on the job from their flesh-and-blood mentors. The research output will be a machine learning system for the robots as well as instruction manuals to teach humans how to use the robots.

    Ultimately, under Homo sapiens’ supervision, the robots will take over simple but strenuous tasks, such as moving heavy materials and placing drywall panels. The human will use a VR headset, joystick, and pointer to model a task in a virtual copy, or digital twin, of the job site, with the robot figuring out the best way to get the job done in meatspace. Construction is physically demanding work, and the introduction of robots to the job site should spare workers a lot of bodily wear-and-tear.