- Tele-operated humanoid robot, RoboMiner, could soon be mining areas deemed unsafe for human exploration, reported ZDNet. The automated robot miner, developed by Enaex and SRI International, can be controlled remotely and can also reach previously inaccessible areas.
- Mounted on a platform with four wheels, the robot has a humanoid torso, head and arms that allow it to support payloads of 5 to 10 kilograms. Sensors allow stereo vision, force feedback, scene rendering and localization.
- Originally slated to operate in pit mines, it eventually will be used underground to mitigate human exposure to temperature fluctuations and wet and dusty conditions.
As automation continues to infiltrate the construction industry, more companies are introducing robots to do work that previously was uniquely human. Built Robotics' autonomous track loader will excavate holes for building foundations while a Pittsburgh-area firm's Tybot will tie rebar on bridge decks.
Robotic technology isn't just for machines, though. Wearables are starting to gain traction, such as a robotic exoskeleton. That market was only $68 million in 2014, but ABI Research estimates it could reach $1.8 billion in 2025. These suits, which often are used in the medical industry, can enhance lifting strength and reduce physical strain, thereby reducing wear and tear on the human body.
Self-driving vehicles also are aiming to automate the industry. Caterpillar introduced its 300-ton mining trucks this year. It hopes to have more than 100 of these vehicles on sites across three continents by year's end.
Although automation could eliminate 600,000 construction jobs in the UK by 2040, automation also could be the answer to the labor shortage plaguing the industry. Automating jobs such as bricklaying, hole digging, tying rebar and more will free more individuals to work on other aspects of a construction job.
Technology and automation also may help close the well-publicized performance gap. McKinsey Research estimated using digital tools will boost productivity by 50% to 60% and generate $1.6 trillion in value. Further development of drones, laser scanning, BIM, VR/AR and more will likely all help work to close that gap.
Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost asserted at the company's annual Autodesk University that automation is an opportunity, rather than a threat, to the industry. According to Anagnost, automaker BMW's Greenville, SC, plant is a prime example — the company invested significantly in automation while creating 9,000 jobs, contributing a half billion dollars to the local economy each year. "Automation and job growth can co-exist," he said.