Hello, everyone. Time for our weekly roundup of articles at the intersection of building information modeling (BIM); artificial intelligence (AI); and the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) space. Here goes:
Artificial intelligence (AI) continues to make headlines and stir debate. A recent article in Rolling Stone takes a look at both sides of the AI dilemma – the good and the bad. It recognizes that while machines may one day be able to solve many of the world's ills, it is impossible to determine just how far machine learning will go: "Will machines someday be able to think for themselves, reason through problems, display emotions? No one knows. The rise of smart machines is unlike any other technological revolution because what is ultimately at stake here is the very idea of humanness." Researchers, however, are quick to point out that the current state of AI falls somewhere around the range of a two-year-old child and speculate that any truly "smart" machine won't emerge for decades, if ever.
This robot is brilliantly named "Brett" (Berkeley robot for the elimination of tedious tasks). (Source: Rolling Stone)
In the meantime, Spyropoulos Design Lab at the AADRL in London is working with intelligent robotics in a most unexpected way. Their robots don't just physically build a space, the robots are the space. They interact with one another, the surrounding environment, and humans to move into an area, connect, and create built environments. "The prototypes Spyropoulos is developing reimagine architecture as the self-assembled product of human need and intuition with robotic flexibility: small armies of devices that autonomously flood in to fill a need and create a space – and then reform and revise it just as quickly." They see their work as most relevant in disaster zones and remote areas, where speed is of the essence or materials are scarce, but further imagine a new kind of collaboration in design and architecture between these smart little machines and human counterparts.
Could these collaborating robots someday become part of the BIM process? Possibly. Engineering.com and IMAGINiT Technologies see BIM methodologies as constantly evolving to meet the needs of rapidly changing environments. While they aren't yet looking to autonomous robots, they do see the benefits of technologies like augmented reality (AR) and 3D printing: "One of the enabling factors for the advent of AM [additive manufacturing] in BIM is the evolving existence of 3D-printable concrete. As it becomes more plausible as a building material, the need for prefabricated components falls drastically." The reduction in material cost and waste could be significantly reduced if those materials were made to order on-site by, essentially, robots.
The possibilities of 3D-printed concrete are limitless and architecturally inspiring. (Source: Engineering.com)
The University of Illinois and Turner Construction Company are already adding robots to the BIM process for the construction of the new Sacramento Kings arena. A team at the U of I has created the "Flying Superintendent" -- a system using video and images from drones to spot problems (current and potential) and incorporate them into the model before they become time consuming and costly. "The analytics we conduct on these survey-grade 3D visual production models offer construction managers a transparent view into what's happening on site each day, empowering them to improve reliability in short-term plans and eliminate problems before they happen." Throw in the aforementioned AR and 3D printing and it would seem the next evolution of BIM is already upon us.
The Sacramento Kings arena mid-build. (Source: Global Construction Review)
While BIM is evolving into a more thorough and valuable (albeit complex) tool, don't you miss the days when you could break out the Legos and not worry about designers, contractors, and MEP clash? As usual, ask and Google shall provide. Take your mind off the rigors of the day and spend a few minutes with your internal child and Build with Chrome. You never know where that next great design idea will manifest.
People all over the world can create their own "builds" with virtual Legos. Here's a screenshot of a building someone created in San Francisco. This just may be the next generation of architecture. (Source: Build with Chrome)