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Hello, everyone.  Time for our weekly roundup of articles at the intersection of BIM; artificial intelligence; and the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) space.  Here goes: 

Those of us who live in California (and other hot housing markets) can appreciate the efforts of Acre Designs, which is endeavoring to make quality homes not just affordable but environmentally friendly. Andrew and Jennifer Dickson, an industrial designer and an architect, respectively, felt it was time for an overhaul in how homes are built and how they use energy. The houses follow a "buildings as a product" philosophy, with some tech thrown in for good measure. All the building products for the house are pre-packaged in a shipping container and assembled on-site by a construction crew. This allows for a more sustainable integration. TechCrunch reports that the Dicksons "...started the company out of their own frustration in finding a sustainable home that was built to modern standards. Specifically, they were looking for a zero-energy home that could use solar to power the entire house." The end result is a compact but comfortable home without the added expense of gas and electric bills. Acre Designs is in a current batch at YCombinator, which also incubated PlanGrid

The futute of prefab is bright! (Source: Acre Designs)

Madeline Gannon may one day be able to bring her industrial robotic training to the Dickson's production. Her research studio, Madlab, is working on ways to allow robots and humans to work together collaboratively in physical space. Gannon posits, "These machines have the potential to be incredibly useful tools in live environments like construction sites or film sets. But taking industrial robots out of the factory and putting them into dynamic spaces bring[s] unique challenges for usability and safety." Her team is currently working on machines making "things on and around the body," but she sees the future of human-robot collaboration as a way to enhance how we work and build, rather than as a mere human replacement. 

The things a human/robot team can create. (Source: Madlab)

Perhaps MadLab will one day team with Andy Rubin in his latest venture, Playground Global. The originator of the Android system has created a new, funded work space where designers have direct access to top engineers and technologists who are "building the hardware and software that will power their intelligent machines." But Rubin's end goal isn't just fun gadgets. He sees his work space as forming the "standard building blocks" that will be the components of future AI machines. In addition, rather than focusing on neural networks that are the basis of systems like AlphaGo, Rubin sees hundreds of smart gadgets working together to send sensory data to an AI system. He feels that for a machine to be truly intelligent, it must understand its environment as well as it understands facts and images.   

Rubin's vision, however, still faces many hurdles. Especially since, according to Wired, "The best AI still flunks 8th grade science." Although machines have been taught to recognize voice commands and win at Jeopardy!, they still lack the nuanced conceptual thinking that allows humans to reason through problems. But some AI experts feel that teaching a system to take a test is getting it backwards in the first place. Doug Lenat, of the AI project Cyc, says, "Teaching today's machines to take basic science tests doesn't even make much sense... The focus on natural language understanding — science tests, and so on — is something that should  follow  from a program being actually intelligent."  

Will AI ever outsmart us? (Source: Wired)

Perhaps the creator of such intelligence will be discovered at TED 2020, where the winner of X Prize Foundation and IBM's $5 million AI competition will be unveiled. Unlike previous X Prize competitions, this one, which will open for registration in May 2016, will provide a set of parameters for a clear definition of artificial intelligence, but will not restrict its contestants to what sorts of systems they can build. The competition's sponsors see endless possibilities for the application of AI and hope to encourage excitement for the myriad applications of this ever-evolving technology.  

For the time being, there are plenty of smart machines to assist us in our daily endeavors, and just as many apps to enhance those machines. Rob McKinney, a.k.a. Construction App Guru, provides a list of five new apps he predicts will be valuable in the construction industry. From safety to keeping track of equipment to tracking BIM models (our favorite), these platforms may not be intelligent machines, but could prove useful in saving some sanity.

Today, there's an app for everything! (Source: ConAppGuru)

Tags: Artificial Intelligence Construction Architecture

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