Construction robots are starting to evolve into something more interesting; consider the In Situ Fabricator construction robot created by a team lead by Markus Giftthaler at the ETH Zurich in Switzerland:
(The In Situ Fabricator Construction Robot)
The In Situ Fabricator1 is designed from the bottom up to be practical. It can build stuff using a range of tools with a precision of less than five millimeters, it is designed to operate semi-autonomously in a complex changing environment, it can reach the height of a standard wall, and it can fit through ordinary doorways. And it is dust- and waterproof, runs off standard electricity, and has battery backup. On top of all this, it must be Internet-connected so that an architect can make real-time changes to any plans if necessary.
To show off its capabilities, Giftthaler and co have used it to build a pair of structures in an experimental construction site in Switzerland called NEST (Next Evolution is Sustainable building Technologies). The first is a double-leaf undulating brick wall that is 6.5 meters long and two meters high and made of 1,600 bricks.
Even positioning such a wall correctly on a construction site is a tricky task. In Situ Fabricator1 does this by comparing the map of the construction site it has gathered from its sensors with the architect’s plans. But even then, it must have the flexibility to allow for unforeseen problems such as uneven terrain or material sagging that changes a structure’s shape.
And lest you think that this robot is really just too slow to be useful, take a look at how robotics has accelerated the fine art of pancake stacking in this real-time video:
We were all introduced to the idea of a construction robot is in the (still excellent!) 1985 movie Runaway.