The Robot Builders are Coming

We've all heard plenty about the robot revolution -- the increased use of robots to replace human tasks. As the economy continues to boom, the pace of robotic advancements in labor is only quickening, and its latest frontier is construction. A San Francisco-based company called Built Robotics is now developing technology that allows large construction equipment to operate autonomously. The idea is to make construction jobs safer, quicker and more efficient. And their timing couldn't be better, as U.S. construction is now at an all-time high.

Far from replacing labor, the robot technology is about filling a labor gap, according to Noah Ready-Campbell, Built Robotics founder and CEO. "Autonomy is actually a really big deal when we look at the construction industry today, because there is a persistent labor shortage," he tells KTRH. "The Associated General Contractors announced that the number one problem facing contractors this year is finding qualified labor."

Overall, Ready-Campbell believes the robots will complement, rather than replace, human workers. "Robots work well in certain circumstances, but they don't have the human judgment and they don't have the same finesse that a really skilled operator does, so I think there's always going to be a partnership between the machines and the workers," he says. "If we can build some machines to do the easier, more repetitive parts of the job by themselves, then that frees people up to focus on the harder, more challenging parts of the job which require human judgment and finesse."

Construction work has also been a huge magnet for illegal immigrants coming to America seeking work, but these robotic advancements could make a dent in some of those low-skilled jobs. "There's certainly a lot of immigrant labor--some of it documented and some undocumented--in construction, and if autonomy can help solve some of the issue there, I think that is fantastic," says Ready-Campbell.

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