People love to rattle on and on about how sophisticated sentient robots will inevitably replace us all, rendering our professional skills obsolete and ultimately ushering in some dystopian hellscape worthy of a Black Mirror episode. And yes, that could happen, but it shouldn't stop us from embracing robots that are currently capable of doing very good things for people in need.
Meet the Hadrian X, a long-armed, brick-laying robot that can stack 1,000 bricks an hour and construct an entire house in just two days, without the help of a human. For regions devastated by war, natural disasters, and extreme weather, that's a very, very big deal.
Seeing this thing in action is kind of hypnotic -- like watching a robot assemble a normal-sized house out of huge gray LEGOs. The stationary, truck-based machine is equipped with a 98ft retractable arm, which can be easily positioned alongside any construction site. Once it's loaded with pallets of bricks, it gets to work -- all it needs is design instructions from some 3D CAD software. It then cuts and grinds the bricks into specific sizes as needed, and uses a conveyer belt and laser-guided system to precisely stack them into walls according to the specs, automatically spreading adhesive between layers. It can work round the clock, and doesn't need a break.
Besides "whoa," your immediate reaction might be that this is going to fundamentally change the construction industry and potentially devastate its labor force. However, before you dismiss it for posing a serious threat to low-wage jobs, consider how it could be used to provide rapid disaster relief and aid to communities around the world.
For instance, what if there were a fleet of these things to help build temporary homes for Syrian refugees? Or think how prolonged the recovery from Hurricane Matthew will be in places like Haiti, where the storm wiped entire towns off the map. If a machine like the Hadrian X were brought in in the immediate aftermath, it could be effectively used to reconstruct homes, build shelters, or create community centers where doctors and various aid agencies could securely set up camp to coordinate their efforts.
It's unclear exactly what the cost per square foot would be for a home built this way, but it probably won't be too long before we're seeing these things in action. The Australian manufacturing company behind it, Fastbrick Robotics, plans to market the technology there first, before expanding internationally.
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