The first thing I’d like you to do is watch the beginning of a short clip from the movie, Tomorrowland. It shows a boy trying to avoid robots as they print a skyscraper in a futuristic world where the brightest and smartest people have come to live. You don’t need any popcorn. You only need to watch the first minute or so because I’d like you to save some energy to watch the video that follows.
I don’t know if this is a case of art imitating life. I’m more inclined to think that it’s another case of science fiction writers correctly predicting the future.
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This past month, Caterpillar announced that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Fastbrick Robotics, an Australian robotics company. The MOU allows the two companies to collaborate on robot bricklaying technology. It also establishes what they call a “strategic alliance board” with representatives from both companies, which will consider how best to offer the technology to Caterpillar’s construction customers.
Is there anything we can deduce from Caterpillar getting involved with data analytics, augmented reality, drones, and now robot bricklayers? Other than the fact that all of these technologies were, at one time or another, in movies set in the future… equipment manufacturers continue to march in the direction of smarter machines. Also, traditional jobs, from operators to maintenance and bricklayers to foremen, will change to include some sort of digital programming-like skills.
Understanding your tools has always been part of the occupation. And a robotic bricklayer is in essence just another tool, albeit a 3D-printing tool that uses tracking and targeting lasers with positioning algorithms.