Complex brick patterns fall into place with mixed reality tool

Dive Brief:
  • Software developer Fologram is merging digital models with the physical jobsite to make the task of laying bricks in complex patterns a smoother and more accurate process, reported Fast Company.
  • The platform feeds 3D modeling data from Rhino into Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headsets. Workers wearing the goggles can see the most up-to-date masonry design sized to their environment and lay bricks within provided outlines.
  • The technology allowed two bricklayers to fully and accurately complete in about 6.5 hours a curving brick lattice that would normally take two weeks and require corrections, according to a video from the Australian firm.
Dive Insight:
In recent years, several reports have made varying estimations of the number of jobs that will be displaced by automation in the future. The Midwest Economic Policy Institute, for example, predicts that nearly 2.7 million construction jobs will be replaced or displaced by robots by 2057. But some roles are more vulnerable than others — the same study says operating engineers have an 88% potential for automation versus 35% for laborers, on the other end of the spectrum.


The Fologram platform acknowledges that complex craftsmanship is best left to humans, but that technology can still play a valuable role in speeding up the process. Construction Robotics takes a similar approach by equipping workers with tools that augment, not replace, their expertise.
“Where is someone doing the same thing over and over again where we can apply a robot to assist that person and either take the physical strain out of their work or increase the speed at which they're able to work?", questioned President and Co-founder Scott Peters in a recent webinar.
In addition to its semi-automated mason (SAM) robot, which can reportedly lay 250 to 400 bricks per hour compared to a typical mason’s 300 to 500 bricks per day, the Victor, New York-based firm offers a Material Unit Lift Enhancer (MULE) robot that takes on the weight of a block or panel while letting a human worker finesse its placement.
Another construction task that’s ripe for robotics is the repetitive rebar-tying process. TyBot completes this task in half the time it takes human workers, according to Allison Park, Pennsylvania-based manufacturer Advanced Construction Robotics.
“There’s rising demand and a declining labor force and there are only two choices to meet work demand in the future: having more skilled workers come into the industry or [making] the existing workers more productive,” co-founder Jeremy Searock told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.