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Artificial intelligence

Robots are going to redefine Japan’s skylines

April 24, 2018

Japanese companies are turning to robots to help build their skyscrapers.

No workers: The country has a labor shortage problem, and it’s only getting worse, especially in the booming construction industry. So firms are turning to automation technologies, including AI and drones, to map and control construction sites.

Bring in the robots:  Shimizu Corporation, for example, is looking to offload a small amount of labor onto bots. Its automatons will weld beams, move supplies, and install ceiling panels, taking over about 1 percent of the total labor involved in a typical high-rise project.

The challenge: With humans everywhere, unpredictable objects swinging around, and bespoke building plans to follow, construction is one of the hardest industries to automate. What’s more, current laws restrict autonomous vehicles’ presence on construction sites to nights and weekends for safety reasons. In order to start working the day shift, the robots will first have to show they can play nice with humans.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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