Anyone who’s had to manhandle a 4-by-8-foot sheet of plywood into place and hold it steady while nailing it to a wall will appreciate the construction robots developed at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.
The humanoids are designed to ease the shortage of construction laborers in a nation with one of the oldest populations on Earth. The robots are fastidiously accurate in their work, but also slow. That’s a flaw compensated by their ability to work double shifts seven days a week, all day long. (See Trends Journal, August 2018, Breeding Robots)
The robots aren’t designed to replace humans entirely. Instead, robots can take over simpler, labor-intensive jobs while people can spend their time crawling into tight spaces and doing other things that robots can’t do, at least yet.
Japan’s mechanical carpenters join brick-laying robots, giant 3D printers that lay down entire buildings, and other automated construction functions that have the potential to speed up work. This could control some costs, making housing more affordable for more people. The robots also could reduce the number of construction-site injuries, now 150,000 annually in the US alone.