VR, AR, AI – there’s a lot of technology coming down the highway and overtaking the construction industry. But you can relax. Artificial intelligence (AI) robots aren’t coming from the future to take over everything.
Software can do very well some things that humans do poorly. On the other hand, there are many things we humans do really well that software doesn’t do at all.
For one thing, software tools cannot be flexible. AI is able to take in data and change its models in response, similar to learning. But it is NOT learning as humans can do. We can see a new situation, roll it around in our brains for a while and figure it out. A machine can merely do something more accurately that it was already programmed to do. It can basically help a person use their intelligence and insight to design a better world.
There’s so much potential in construction right now, it’s generating excitement about the industry overall. There is plenty of opportunity to innovate and achieve amazing things. Yet, technology advancement can leave people excited and frustrated at the same time – mainly in how slowly others are adopting tech. When rolling out new technology, some people’s expectations may be way off base if they’re hoping a software tool will cure every problem the company has.
While those who embrace technology may have the impression their industry is too slow at innovating, the reality is that implementing technology on a large scale within a company is complex. Implementation doesn’t simply impact one process. For instance, if you change project coordination, you also change the way you buy materials and maybe even affect your company’s legal exposure.
Figuring out a clever way of solving a problem with technology means using a set of tools. The construction industry has an abundant group of people who already use tools to build things. You may also already have staff who are biased toward the use of technology tools. When they are able to use visual tools and automation, it can energize them. Technology will allow them to do the thing they love and do it faster. As it turns out, technology is not much different than any other tool used on a construction project. It is a formal way of applying science to achieve work, while eliminating the mundane or repetitive features of that work.
The promise of technology is that it allows you to give up those tedious parts of your job so you’re free to be more creative and strategic in your thinking. Tech lets you focus on the more enjoyable parts of your job.
AI can automate a job, save labor and keep you from making mistakes on a project. But it doesn’t come close to what a skilled human being can accomplish through intuition, creativity and problem solving.
So until the machines can figure out creativity on our level, we are safe from the robots and free to keep innovating.
In episode 79 of Bridging the Gap podcast, I had the opportunity to talk about construction technology with Hugh Seaton, author of The Construction Technology Handbook. Check out what he had to say about VR, AR and AI.