There’s a small, but growing, fear in the construction industry that robots will soon make construction jobs obsolete, but, in all reality, the next logical step is for technology and robotics to first enhance the jobs of human construction workers. There is a lot of money being poured into the industry every day, looking for the next big piece of technology to take over jobsites by storm. A few recent examples are a bionic suit aimed at construction workers and an augmented reality smart hard hat. The next idea may make scaling walls at construction sites extremely easy.
Developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Z-Man grips were originally developed to help military personnel quickly scale buildings to get to safety. Inspired by the climbing abilities of geckos, the scientists went to work replicating their behavior for use by humans. After years of struggles, the group from Draper Labs in Massachusetts devised a series of tiny metal hooks that were strong enough to allow people to first climb brick buildings, and then used magnets to climb metal buildings, using similar techniques that spiders use to climb.
The problem continued to be non-magnetic and smooth walls. After utter despair set in for the scientists, the idea for suction was grips were born. Now, the prototype combines suction cup grips on the hands and foot stirrups that release the suction when lifted up, allowing that corresponding hand to move freely. According to Popular Mechanics, the wall climbing system will cost somewhere between $3-5,000. Though each type of climbing system (metal, brick, and smooth/non-magnetic) are currently separated onto unique devices, the group believes that all three climbing technologies will eventually all be combined into one device.
Full Story: Anyone Can Be Spider-Man With DARPA's Wall-Climbing Invention | Popular Mechanic
As smartphones and tablets are slowly becoming one of the most prominent and powerful tools on construction site, construction technology companies are still largely focusing on construction management firms and general contractors. What’s lost on many is the fact that there are dozens of subcontractors on every jobsite that also need to manage their projects.
Late last year, CAT Phones released their first ever smartphone on a US carrier network, the S48c. The phone is currently available on both the Sprint and Verizon Networks and I was recently able to test out the phone to get some better insight into how it operates. Overall, it offers the toughness to hold up to a jobsite at a reasonable price, but continue reading to hear about all of the details.
Tracking progress on any construction progress is an extremely vital step. Artificial intelligence is gaining popularity in the industry, as it can make sense of thousands of images or videos and place them into context. Before the AI can work its magic, though, all of those pictures and videos must be collected. That’s where robotics masters Boston Dynamics thinks they can step in with a robot they’ve been developing for years.
Fatigue on the jobsite is real, so much so that many technology companies have developed products to reduce fatigue and also sense when a worker is experiencing fatigue. There are other wearable devices, like exoskeletons, that can enhance a workers strength and stamina, but when you need to add more than a little punch, Construction Robotic’s MULE 135 may do the trick.
For over 3 years now, Trimble has been teaming up with Microsoft to make the mixed reality headset, the Microsoft HoloLens, a viable and useful tool for the construction industry. With Microsoft’s recent announcement of their next-gen headset, the HoloLens 2, Trimble also made an announcement about the impending release of a new wearable hard hat compatible device featuring the HoloLens 2.
Falls continue to be the number one leading cause of death on construction sites across the country, accounting for around 40% each year. Even if you can convince your construction crew to wear personal fall arrest systems each time they’re required, proper training is required to select the correct type of fall protection and the anchor points, as well as performing proper inspections of the equipment. An app called Harness Hero is trying to help solve the latter problem.
[guest post] Construction project owners are facing a big problem: paper based progress reports and invoices are making it nearly impossible to quickly find and address errors. The tool kit of the past included a magnifying glass, a pencil (and eraser) and a calculator. Armed with endless human resources, project owners would diligently review paper based documentation for discrepancies. This MO is no longer feasible in the modern construction environment.
JBKnowledge, a construction technology and consultancy company, has been producing their annual Construction Technology Report since 2012. Now in its 7th year, it is far and away the most comprehensive collection of survey results in the construction technology sector.
I’m a strong proponent of reducing the amount of pen and paper used on construction jobsites. Handwriting notes is great for personal use, but as soon as you need to get those notes or reports to someone else, you either spend time duplicating your work on a computer or never get around to communicating, because your notes were misplaced, destroyed, or illegible. Fieldwire, a field software for collaborating on plans, punch lists, and scheduling, among others, has recently announced the release of a custom form building tool to reduce the need for paper on your jobsite.
As much as we like to push for the digitization of the construction jobsite on Construction Junkie, there’s no doubt that there are many within the construction workforce that are still apprehensive to go fully electronic. There’s something to be said for feeling and manipulating something with your hands, as opposed to pointing and clicking. SlatPlanner is a new way that construction companies can electronically build a project schedule, while maintaining a hands-on approach.