Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) software are two cutting edge technologies that are gaining momentum and moving into the mainstream of design. Research has been ongoing for years to determine the roles these technologies can play in construction. Innovation is the delivery of that research – using the knowledge gained and getting buy-in to market the innovation and profit from it. The bonus result of this innovation is discovering ways the tech can be used for the greater good of society.
AI is a framework for thinking through things. The data that goes in determines the output of the process. Hundreds of thousands of hours can be invested into development of a particular AI software. A development goal is set, and then the features that don’t advance performance toward that goal need to be weeded out.
The easiest scenario to envision for using the tech innovations of AI and robotics is to enable safety in the workplace. On a construction site, situational awareness is of paramount importance. Things are happening all around workers every moment they’re on the jobsite. There’s noise and activity, equipment moving around, things to walk over and around, and a person’s brain selectively tunes certain things out to focus on a task at hand. If workers could have 360-degree vision running all the time in the back of their mind – which is an example of what robotics can do for them – the jobsite could not only be safer but also more efficient.
AI – for instance, Siri on your smartphone – works pretty well, with maybe an error every now and then. On a phone, it’s not usually a big deal. However, AI in an industrial setting is a different matter. Engineers know that an error now and then could end up being disastrous. If they use the phone example as their reference point, the mere perception of an “error now and then” will keep some from embracing AI.
The true power and potential of AI, however, is in its reliability and consistency. Companies know what they need help with, know what needs to be done. Some aspects of construction work are really boring for humans. So no one needs to feel particularly bad about getting a machine to do those kinds of necessary-but-boring activities every day all day long. Machines don’t require lunch breaks or naps, they aren’t distracted, and their answers are consistent. That kind of reliability, when demonstrated, can be reassuring, especially to engineers.
There’s another aspect of technology that may profit software development companies a modest amount but bring much more valuable benefits to society as a whole. A perfect example is related to safety. There’s a certain moral and ethical responsibility to make those kinds of innovations available if lives can be protected.
Nathan Kirchner, the founder of Presien and its cutting edge “A.I. vision” construction workplace solutions, has been named one of Australia’s most innovative engineers. He has 15+ years in industry and 10+ years in academia, initiating, shaping, driving, and leading cutting-edge, research-driven disruptive innovation. In episode 44 of the Bridging the Gap Podcast Nathan joined me to discuss the power and potential of AI. Listen to the full episode today.