University of BC team deploys AI-powered robots in construction

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CaDCR staff writer

Construction sites will soon evolve into smarter, safer job sites thanks to AI technology, says University of British Columbia structural engineering professor Dr. Tony Yang.

Dr. Yang and his team at the Smart Structures Lab have developed “smart construction robots” capable of performing basic tasks that construction workers perform, such as lifting and moving objects around a job site, autonomously transporting materials and monitoring sites for safety issues.

The UBC team recently demonstrated the concept at a construction site on Mitchell Island in Richmond, B.C., showing aerial drones fitted with cameras captured details that were then used to create a “digital twin” – a simulation of the site. AI-equipped cranes and forklifts used this information to move construction materials such as beams and columns around the actual site, navigating around obstacles without needing a human operator.

“Our smart construction robots are able to recognize objects, performing detailed scans of structural components for quality assurance,” said Dr. Yang. “They can precisely place objects on site and check against a computer model to ensure they’re building according to plan.

“They can make autonomous decisions such as navigating around obstacles or instantly stopping work to protect a worker who is in danger.”

Yang is working with B.C. construction companies to find opportunities to use smart robots in commercial building projects.

He believes smart robots will have a larger role to play in speeding up construction times, increasing worker safety and easing labour shortages in the industry.

“Our made-in-Canada technology is ready to deploy now and can be quickly scaled up, helping to elevate Canadian construction and making us more competitive on the global stage.”

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