With the resurgence of America’s economy over the past year or two, job opportunities have been growing, including for blue collar workers. As housing prices continue to recover there’s even been something of an increase in the construction sector. So maybe it’s a good time for young people to start looking into jobs in the building industry, right? Well… maybe. At least for a while. But there are some new workers competing for those jobs and they’ve got some distinct advantages over you. First of all, they can lift double their own weight all day long. And all night long. They never take vacations or call in sick. And did I mention that they work for free and don’t ask for any benefits?
That’s right. The robot construction workers are here. (Endgadget)
If Japan’s Advanced Industrial Science and Technology Institute has its way, construction workers might be a thing of the past. Researchers have built HRP-5P, a humanoid bot that can handle a variety of construction tasks when there’s either a staffing shortage or serious hazards. The prototype uses a mix of environment detection, object recognition and careful movement planning to install drywall by itself — it can hoist up boards and fasten them with a screwdriver.
The design doesn’t have as much freedom of movement as a human being, but makes up for that with numerous joints that flex to degrees you wouldn’t see in real people. It won’t always look the most natural when doing its job, but it’ll be effective. It can also correct for slips, and it’s not deterred when it has a limited field of view.
AIST’s robot is methodical, but you can’t call it quick given its tendency to take baby steps and otherwise act cautiously. The potential is huge, however.
Don’t believe it? Here’s the video.
Yeah, this guy is moving slowly enough that he’d be fired from most construction sites, but that’s only one of the first models. And as I mentioned above, once you pay for the robot and allocate resources for regular maintenance and repairs, it’s pretty cheap compared to your average union worker. They’ll get faster too, as the technology continues to come up to speed and the AI improves.
Oh, sorry… did I forget to mention that there’s some rudimentary AI in these robots? Nothing groundbreaking as of yet… at least that we know of. But the robot is “watching” its environment to negotiate around obstacles on the construction site, locate the drywall sheets and place them correctly. That means that in its own way, it’s “thinking.” And it has to get its software updates and job instructions from someplace, so it’s connected to the Internet of Things. You remember that network, right? It’s the one that brought down all the DNS servers a while back.
And just to make you feel even better, the robot has a nail gun and the ability to reload it. Granted, that’s not the same as a .20mm canon, but would you like to take a nail gun shot to the head? We’re just waiting for SKYNET to wake up folks. The robot dogs from Boston Dynamics will probably have these guys riding on their backs. And with a few small field modifications, the nail gun will be a shotgun in no time at all.
In the meantime, you can enjoy all that sweet unemployment money and the chance to stay home with the family while these robots take your jobs. Welcome to the 21st century.