Robotics

Japanese construction robot demonstrates the future of building

Japanese construction robot de...
The robot is being designed to help combat the country's declining birthrate and potential future labor shortage
The robot is being designed to help combat the country's declining birthrate and potential future labor shortage
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The robot is being designed to help combat the country's declining birthrate and potential future labor shortage
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The robot is being designed to help combat the country's declining birthrate and potential future labor shortage
Three different technological elements that help the humanoid robot carry out its construction task in an autonomous fashion
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Three different technological elements that help the humanoid robot carry out its construction task in an autonomous fashion

A new video from AIST, Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, shows a prototype robot designed to work on construction sites in situations where there is a shortage of human workers. The robot in undeniably slow but also strikingly accurate, suggesting a future where humanoid robots could replace even more human jobs.

The prototype demonstration shows the robot, dubbed HRP-5P, picking up a piece of plaster board and screwing it into a wall. This kind of flexible humanoid robot is designed to be able to replicate human motions in complicated construction environments.

【HRP-5P】Humanoid Robot【産総研公式】

Industrial automation is rapidly changing the face of modern mass production. While large factory assembly lines are quickly becoming more and more robotic, human workers are still often necessary for many tasks. Aircraft assembly, for example, is one field that has resisted the kind of robotic assembly that has taken over the world of car production. This is because human workers are still needed to crawl and fit in different areas that larger fixed robotic systems simply cannot reach.

On-site construction is another field that similarly has resisted easy robotic automation, with human labor still primarily relied upon for the building of houses in situ. Automated brick-laying robots and massive robotic 3D-printers are certainly offering intriguing possibilities for the future of construction but ultimately we still need humans to hammer these buildings together.

Three different technological elements that help the humanoid robot carry out its construction task in an autonomous fashion
Three different technological elements that help the humanoid robot carry out its construction task in an autonomous fashion

This new Japanese research is less focused on removing the need for human workers but instead geared towards trying to deal with a problem unique to the island nation. Announcing the new robot, the researchers write: "Along with the declining birthrate and the aging of the population, it is expected that many industries such as the construction industry will fall into serious manual shortages in the future, and it is urgent to solve this problem by robot technology."

HRP-5P is not by any means the most advanced robot we have ever seen (the backflipping Atlas from Boston Dynamics arguably shows off a greater dynamic range). However, by directly designing a robot that can carry out heavy manual labour using similar movements to a human, AIST is gesturing toward a future where even more granular construction work can be taken over by robots.

Source: AIST (Japanese language)

13 comments
Daishi
It doesn't look like the robot will be replacing construction workers just yet. It put in 3 nails in ~10 minutes, needs to recharge after it, and costs more than an airplane. The humanoid robotic future sci-fi promised appears to be long ways out still.
Brian M
@Daishi 'It doesn't look like the robot will be replacing construction workers just yet.' Not so sure
'It put in 3 nails in ~10 minutes' About on par with our house builder! 'needs to recharge after it' Same as our builder - Stops for a cup of tea < and costs more than an airplane> Same as our builder - should see his bill
All in all very similar - only difference is no bad whistling and builders bum on display - so definitely a win!.

paul314
I am skeptical that a fully humanoid shape is anywhere near the best choice for construction tasks. When I've done framing or sheetrock or cabinet hanging, it's always been obvious that (at least) one more arm/hand would make the job way easier.
doug66
Kinda goofy tbh. An actual purpose-built construction robot would not be a human-like bipedal mess like this one.
Phileaux
Another problem in Japan is they teardown perfectly functional business building once the prior business closes. Something to do with being the cutting edge and showing that they have the capital for a new building.
Adrian Pineda
I think it could be useful in situations like sewer, mine or high and low temperature inspection, or maintenance where fumes or other situations dangerous to humans could be mitigated.
Expanded Viewpoint
I say that it didn't do too badly, all things considered, such as the rough edges need to be smoothed off in the accuracy of where it placed the nails, one it appears went into the header after the first tie down nail went right where it was supposed to. Maybe a gyro needs to be tweaked or the software needs to take into account the recoil of the nail gun to add more stability to the platform. Who says that the battery needs to be recharged after only a few minutes of working? There is a LOT of potential in this machine, it just needs to be developed more is all.
Randy
Lardo
So.... when all the humans have been put out of work by the robots, who's gonna buy the products the robots are producing? Robots?
som
That is a superb robot! The developers have the right approach: the robot imitates human methods of work. The next step is for each robot to become capable of doing the big and small, rough and fine, sturdy and delicate, and dumb and intelligent chores. They should be able to handle all the tools in a tool box as needed by a job. When so equipped, they can replace carpenters, plumbers, electricians, welders, painters, and so on. Then, teams of robots with distinct specializations can take over complete construction or repair works. Talking about versatile capabilities like humans, I sent a suggestion to a US government technology R&D organization on cooperative AI agents. It was acknowledged but the PM was inundated by many other emails to review my concept. They need help from intelligent agents!
Nik
This machine is the equivalent of a human ''toddler'' but its potential for growth is much greater. It will take a three year old now, another 15 years before it can join adults at work. My guess is that long before that this machine will be doing the job, and the 18 year old will be redundant. If you look at present car manufacturing operations, humans are almost non-existent, compared to 15 years ago when factories had hundreds of people working in them. The pace of progress is accelerating, constantly. eventually, all repetitive work will be carried out by robots, humans will be required to service and maintain them, initially, then even that will be done by robots. What will humans do? That will require imagination on their part, something robots dont have, Yet!.......