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MIT has developed M-blocks, a set of robotic cubes that can roll, jump, spin, and self-assemble into different shapes. the robots, called M-blocks 2.0, have a barcode-like system on each face that helps them recognize and communicate with other blocks.

the cube robots were developed by MIT’s computer science and artificial intelligence laboratory (CSAIL). they are actually the second iteration of an original design that MIT showed off back in 2013. the latest version features algorithms designed to help the robots work together more effectively.

inside each modular ‘M-block’ is a flywheel that moves at 20,000 revolutions per minute, using angular momentum when the flywheel is braked. on each edge and every face are permanent magnets that let any two cubes attach to each other.

each module can move in four cardinal directions when placed on any one of the six faces, which results in 24 different movement directions. without little arms and appendages sticking out of the blocks, it’s a lot easier for them to stay free of damage and avoid collisions.

‘M stands for motion, magnet, and magic,’ says MIT professor and CSAIL director daniela rus. ”motion’, because the cubes can move by jumping. ‘magnet,’ because the cubes can connect to other cubes using magnets, and once connected they can move together and connect to assemble structures. ‘magic,’ because we don’t see any moving parts, and the cube appears to be driven by magic.’

‘the unique thing about our approach is that it’s inexpensive, robust, and potentially easier to scale to a million modules,’ says CSAIL PhD student john romanishin, lead author on a new paper about the system. ‘m-blocks can move in a general way. other robotic systems have much more complicated movement mechanisms that require many steps, but our system is more scalable.’

essentially, the blocks used the configuration of how they’re connected to each other in order to guide the motion that they choose to move. in MIT’s experiements, 90 percent of the M-blocks succeeded in getting into a line.

while the mechanism is quite intricate on the inside, the exterior is just the opposite, which enables more robust connections. beyond inspection and rescue, the researchers also imagine using the blocks for things like gaming, manufacturing, and health care.

Blaine Brownell explores emergent teleoperation and telerobotics technologies that could revolutionize the built environment.

Design practitioners have become familiar with an array of evolving technologies such as virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), building information modeling (BIM), and robotics. What we contemplate less often, however, is what happens when these technologies are combined.

Enter the world of teleoperation, which is the control of a machine or system from a physical distance. The concept of a remote-controlled machine is nothing new, but advances in AR and communication technologies are making teleoperability more sophisticated and commonplace. One ultimate goal of teleoperability is telepresence, which is commonly used to describe to videoconferencing, a passive audiovisual experience. But increasingly, it also pertains to remote manipulation. Telerobotics refers specifically to the remote operation of semi-autonomous robots. These approaches all involve a human–machine interface (HMI), which consists of “hardware and software that allow user inputs to be translated as signals for machines that, in turn, provide the required result to the user,” according to Techopedia. As one might guess, advances in HMI technology represent significant potential transformations in building design and construction.

Tokyo-based company SE4 has created a similar telerobotics system that overcomes network lag by using AI to accelerate robotic control. Combining VR and computer vision with AI and robotics, SE4's Semantic Control system can anticipate user choices relative to the robot’s environment. “We’ve created a framework for creating physical understanding of the world around the machines,” said SE4 CEO Lochlainn Wilson in a July interview with The Robot Report. “With semantic-style understanding, a robot in the environment can use its own sensors and interpret human instructions through VR.”

Developed for construction applications, the system can anticipate potential collisions between physical objects, or between objects and the site, as well as how to move objects precisely into place (like the “snap” function in drawing software). Semantic Control can also accommodate collaborative robots, or “cobots,” to build in a coordinated fashion. “With Semantic Control, we’re making an ecosystem where robots can coordinate together,” SE4 chief technology officer Pavel Savkin said in the same article. “The human says what to do, and the robot decides how.”

Eventually, machines may be let loose to construct buildings alongside humans. Despite the significant challenges robotics manufacturers have faced in creating machines that the mobility and agility of the human body, Waltham, Mass.–based BostonDynamics has made tremendous advances. Its Atlas humanoid robot, made of 3D-printed components for lightness, employs a compact hydraulic system with 28 independently powered joints. It can move up to a speed of 4.9 feet per second. Referring to BostonDynamics’ impressive feat, Phil Rader, University of Minnesota VR research fellow, tells ARCHITECT that “the day will come when robots can move freely around and using AI will be able to discern the real world conditions and make real-time decisions.” Rader, an architectural designer who researches VR and telerobotics technologies, imagines that future job sites will likely be populated by humans as well as humanoids, one working alongside the other. The construction robots might be fully autonomous, says Rader, or “it's possible that the robot worker is just being operated by a human from a remote location.”

FullStack Modular
When Jan Mischke speaks to industry leaders about the benefits of modular construction they usually respond in one of two ways, he said. “They are either optimistic about the future of modular or they are really worried that modular companies are going to eat their cake."

Their fears are for good reason, Mischke, a partner a McKinsey Global Institute, told Construction Dive. Even though modular construction has penetrated only about 3% of the U.S. construction market, recent projects have drawn attention to the efficiencies that it can offer for commercial projects, he said. These include new hotels from Marriott and Hilton, Skender's multifamily projects and several McDonald’s restaurants in the United Kingdom.

Mischke is one of the authors of a newly released McKinsey study that found that modular can deliver projects 20% to 50% faster than traditional methods and shave up to 20% off a project's costs. The method also makes sense for contractors in labor-constrained markets, the study said, and lends itself to structures like schools and health care facilities that have easily duplicated floor plans with similar fixtures and fittings.

"It's great for temporary structures, too, like a school that's in use while the main building is being refurbished," said Mischke.

The study predicts that construction firms that embrace modular construction will see their roles change, shifting from less on-site construction to more of a commoditized approach. The McKinsey official said savvy industry leaders will see modular as a growth opportunity, not a hazard.

“I would encourage the leaders of E&C firms to think about what could be their sweet spot 10 to 15 years out,” he said. “It’s time to get moving.”

The role of technology

The McKinsey researchers noted in the report several ways that technology is playing an increasingly important role in the shift to offsite construction. Robotics and other automation technologies are enhancing and speeding up the manufacturing process, making it more like automotive production. Many modular players utilize virtual and augmented reality programs, which create digital models that allow customers to visualize and tailor designs before they are built, the report said.

Technology also is helping facilitate digitally-enabled, "just-in-time" delivery to the jobsite, which is critical because it is not efficient to stack and store modules for later use, the report stated. For example, programs like RIB SAA provide planning and robotics software for modular construction manufacturers. Once modules arrive on the site, automated cranes lift and move them into the required position.

Meanwhile, Lindbacks, a modular construction firm in Sweden, uses Randek’s industrial construction machinery to automate a variety of construction tasks including nailing, milling of openings, sheet cutting, gluing, inkjet marking, and sheet addition and handling.
Indoor farming company Plenty’s new, bigger operation wants to deliver fresh greens, any time of year. And its robot farm workers help it optimize growing conditions to make the most delicious produce.

Inside a cavernous warehouse in South San Francisco, 16-foot-tall walls of kale and other greens stretch down aisles twice the length of a bowling lane. Matt Barnard, CEO and cofounder of Plenty, the startup that designed and built the indoor farm, points to two types of mustard greens called mizuna and tatsoi. “This is one of the blends that we are working to position against junk food,” he says.

Barnard wants to change how the world eats by changing how food is grown. The new farm, which will begin selling produce to San Franciscans later this year, is the latest iteration of its indoor growing system, designed to grow food as efficiently as possible in any space, so cities anywhere can have access to locally grown vegetables—optimized for flavor—at any time of year. When I first visited the company’s headquarters in 2017, it used only a small amount of the space, a former electronics distribution center in an industrial neighborhood. A few months later, Softbank led a $200 million investment round in the startup. The new version of Plenty’s farm now sprawls over a much larger part of its headquarters, and the company plans to eventually replicate it near large cities globally.

Each step in the process is now automated. In one corner of the massive warehouse, a bright yellow robot picks up a tower filled with kale that was growing, minutes earlier, in one of the aisles of greens next door. Gently turning the tower on its side, the robot sets it on a conveyor belt where a spinning wheel neatly trims the greens to harvest them. When the farm opens, this will be one of the last steps before produce is delivered to grocery stores or directly to consumers (the company already sells greens from its earlier, smaller farm through a local food delivery service called Good Eggs, along with some independent groceries). In another corner, robots pack trays with soil and seeds and deliver them to another room to germinate. Along another wall, four robots inside glass boxes carefully lift seedlings out of trays and plant them into the tall white growing towers. Back in the growing room, infrared cameras and sensors monitor the indoor climate, and software adjusts details like the precise “recipe” for light or water to create the best flavor in the plants.

“We essentially coax a different flavor profile out of the plants by giving them the right recipe,” says Barnard. Each day, the company runs harvested crops through its “sensory” department, evaluating factors like size and flavor and tweaking the growing environment as needed for the next crop. “We take those plants and analyze what’s in them, and then we work to give subsequent crops exactly the right recipe so that these things are lovable. And that’s critical. That’s how we get to 10-year-olds asking their mothers for our kale.”

Right now, only around 1 in 10 Americans eat as many fruits and vegetables each day as federal guidelines recommend. If it’s possible to buy local, freshly harvested produce in Minneapolis in February—rather than wilted greens that spent a week on a truck from Arizona or California—Plenty believes that people will be more likely to want to eat them. Because the company can control the growing environment, it says that it can achieve flavors that aren’t consistently possible in fields. It can also sell varieties of produce that are too delicate to survive current supply chains. Consumers don’t really want to buy iceberg lettuce, Barnard says. But it’s a huge crop because it can survive both difficult growing conditions on farms and then travel thousands of miles. With a local journey, Plenty can sell crops that don’t exist in typical supermarkets now. I tasted wasabi arugula, a spicy wild green that mimics the heat of the Japanese condiment.

The company wouldn’t comment on the cost of its system. But it says that it’s still possible to sell greens at the same cost as those grown on a traditional farm. One of the largest costs for indoor farms is energy use, especially from lighting; in the last year, Plenty cut energy consumption by 80% per kilogram of plants grown, and it expects to cut that further. Roughly a third of the value of vegetables sold in the eastern U.S., it says, comes from transportation from farms in places like California or Mexico. Indoor farms can also avoid the cost of days in distribution centers and other parts of those long supply
If robots built your house, what would it look like?

Why are walls always straight? Why does it cost so much to build them? And why do big construction projects so often run late? Construction has always been a conservative industry, used to doing things how they have always been done.

But a new wave of innovation is coming, which will change what buildings look like, how they are made, and who wins in the new era of the construction industry.

Architects have always been limited by what their builders can actually make. But if robots were doing the building, all sorts of new possibilities open up.

Straight walls partly exist for the convenience of builders and architects - but for a robot, a curved wall is almost as easy. So at the DFAB House, a small test building in the suburbs of Zurich, Switzerland, the main wall follows an elegant, irregular curve. It’s built around a steel frame, welded by robots, which humans would have found almost impossible to construct unaided.

Even stranger, the roof consists of a series of flowing, organic ridges, which look as if they were secreted by a giant insect. Awkward to dust, perhaps, but designed by computer and made with 3D printing to achieve the same strength as a conventional, straight roof, yet with half the weight.

The house, built by Switzerland’s National Centre of Competence in Research in Digital Fabrication, demonstrates what a computer-designed, robot-built house could look like.

“If you think about how buildings are built today all these processes have a long history - but they are all designed to be executed by people,” says Mr Graser. “So they are taking advantage of all the talents people have, all the things people are good at. You can’t just transfer them to a digital tool or a machine.

“So what we are trying to do is take a step back and think about what the machine is good at and what the robot is good at, and really rethink the way that we build.”

The DFAB House showed how robots can play a role in construction, indoors and out. Robots build the wooden sections which form the upper floors of the house, and welded the steel frame of the curved concrete wall. Mr Graser calls this “3D printing with steel”.

From Russia to Dubai, France to the Netherlands, architects and builders are experimenting with the possibilities that new technologies such as 3D printing open up.

Robots are being built for all sorts of construction tasks, which are often heavy, repetitive and dull - perfect candidates for automation. There are robots which can install drywall, lay bricks, or lift heavy objects, though they are a long way from replacing humans altogether.

For instance, SAM, the “semi-automated mason” developed by a US company called Construction Robotics, has been used on a number of construction projects in the US. It can lay an accurate course of bricks with mortar, but still needs a human tender to measure the site, set up the robot and tidy up the external surface of the mortar afterwards.

And while these may open up exciting new design possibilities, their biggest impact will be on the economics of building projects.

When the earth is first moved at the start of a construction project, it will often now be under digital guidance. The Japanese company Komatsu now sells diggers equipped with GPS technology which know, to within a centimetre or two, exactly where the bucket edge is scraping the ground.

The BBC tried one out at the Komatsu facility in County Durham, England. With no prior experience of operating heavy construction machinery, a reporter was able to create a reasonably flat surface, at the correct height described in the digital plan on the digger’s onboard computer.

No matter how hard you push the levers, the bucket will not dig below the level defined in the plan. So once you’ve scraped away everything you can, what remains is the correct, flat surface.

Without this protection, even experienced operators can easily dig too deep, and it costs money and time to restore the earth to the correct height and density.

Best known as a vendor of diggers and bulldozers, Komatsu is trying to reinvent itself as a complete provider of digital construction tools. Armed with a shovel-load of valuable data, it hopes to get involved in construction projects at the design stage, and remain involved all the way through.

To check progress a
Google, Sony, LG, and other giants are showing up to show off gadgets at Salone del Mobile–evidence of the subtle way they’re reframing themselves as design-led companies.

Every April, thousands descend upon Milan for the design industry’s most important event of the year. Centered around Salone del Mobile–the Milan Furniture Fair–it’s a week filled with design events, installations, and announcements of new collections that will shape the industry for the next year, and it’s been that way for most of its nearly 60-year existence.

But lately, it hasn’t just been design companies turning up for Milan Design Week: Tech companies, from Apple to Google, have been coming too. This year, the biggest players in home tech–including Sony, LG, and Bang & Olufsen, as well as Google–are out in force, showing off new TVs and installations that hint at their future ambitions. Their presence points to the increasing presence of technology in how we think about our homes–while also illustrating how tech companies are eager to portray their products as design-driven.

This year’s Salone features multiple TV makers, all aiming to solve the main issue with the genre: Televisions are ugly black wastes of space when they’re not in use, which is most of the time.

Bang & Olufsen is launching a new, shape-shifting television-speaker hybrid called the Beovision Harmony that changes its form based on how you want to use it. When you’re not watching TV, the 77-inch OLED screen sits behind two panels made of oak and aluminum that house a powerful speaker system. When it’s time for Game of Thrones on Sunday night, you hit a button and the two panels magically open up as the screen rises behind them. It’s a lovely system, even if it’s completely inaccessible for most people: The television will retail in the company’s stores this fall for 18,500 euros (the U.S. price has yet to be determined).

The Beovision Harmony isn’t the only television being presented as interior design this week. LG’s rollable OLED television, which was first announced at the consumer electronics trade show CES in January 2019, also makes an appearance in an experiential installation that mainly serves to show off the intense colors the TV is capable of displaying. Designed in collaboration with the British architecture studio Foster + Partners, the television unfurls when there’s bright light in the room and then slowly rolls away when it becomes dark.

Similarly, Panasonic partnered with Vitra to debut a cabinet with a glass panel that transforms into a screen when you turn it on.

After making its debut last year by displaying its textile-covered hardware devices, Google is back at Salone this year with a forward-looking installation oriented around “neuroaesthetics,” or the science of how beauty makes you feel. Visitors don wristbands that track biometric data as they move through the installation’s three rooms, each with different furniture, lighting, and overall vibe. The goal is to give people a glimpse of how their environment influences how they feel by showing them their data after (Google says all the data is then deleted). The installation points to Google’s interest in interior spaces, though it’s hard to know how this will play into the company’s strategy in the future.

Like Google, Sony has created an installation for Salone, but this one is centered on robots–Sony’s cute puppy robot Aibo in particular. Called Affinity in Autonomy, the installation has several parts, which all react to a visitor’s presence to give them the sense of an intelligent being in the room with them. How does smart technology, whether in the form of a robot dog or something much more subtle, change the way that people perceive and interact with interior spaces? Visitors can play with Aibo and answer questions about what they think about the future of autonomous robots.

Consumer tech companies are showing up at the world’s biggest furniture fair for a reason: Technology has become an integral part of the interior design of most of our homes. The companies making that technology are now part of home life, whether they choose to engage with the interior design industry or not. But the companies that come to Salone are also using the fair to broadcast their design cred. Many of the biggest tech companies today, including Google and Apple, now talk about themselves as design-led, framing their products as human-centered solutions to
MIT Mediated Matter Group
the aguahoja pavilion — this tall, honey-skinned cocoon structure — is composed of the most abundant biopolymers on the planet. molecules found in insect exoskeletons, tree branches and yes, even components found in our own bones were printed by a robot, shaped by water and formed into this organic tower by MIT media lab’s mediated matter group — a team of researchers led by neri oxman.

it looks sort of insecty, sort of leafy, orange, yellow and brown, with milky white bones hugging it all together for now… but heat, humidity, light and time will of course run their course on these water-based materials. programmable or not, fabricated-digitally and printed robotically or not — from dust to dust and from water to water, these organisms will serve their purpose then vanish to create something else — unlike the 300 million tons of plastic produced globally each year. only about 10% of that will vanish.

aguahoja was created by researchers at the MIT media lab’s mediated matter group, led by neri oxman. within this project: a pavilion and a wall of artifacts. what you’ve seen thus far, the tall leaf-like cocoon, is the aguahoja pavilion, which replicates nature in its appearance and, more impressively, its life-cycle. ‘[aguahoja’s] environmentally responsive biocomposite artifacts are composed of the most abundant materials on our planet – cellulose, chitosan, and pectin. these components are parametrically compounded, functionally graded, and digitally fabricated to create biodegradable composites with functional, mechanical, and optical gradients across length scales ranging from millimeters to meters. in life, these materials modulate their properties in response to heat and humidity; in death, they dissociate in water to fuel new life.’

‘in old growth forests and coral reefs, waste is virtually non-existent,’ says the mediated matter group. ‘within this framework, matter produced by one member of an ecosystem, living or nonliving, inevitably fuels the lifecycle of another. the result is a system fueled by water with unparalleled efficiency in the use of energy and resources. this cycle of birth, adaptation, and decay allows ecosystems to use materials in perpetuity’. the environments we build are rarely as natural or as efficient as coral reefs. instead, we extract materials from earth faster than they can grow. we build things that outlive their functions, then throw them under a rug of land or dump them in the water as we turn the other way to begin looking for more materials to prematurely extract and use for a short while.

adjacent to the pavilion, environmentally responsive biocomposites line the wall in a crescendo of color: ‘the aguahoja artifacts.’ glossy, dense, soft, brittle, strong and tough as leather — each material responds very differently to environmental factors, but all of them respond nonetheless. some get cold and hot easily. others darken and lighten as the seasons change. humidity is a catalyst for all of them in life, and in death they all dissociate in water and return to the ecosystem. chitin, for example, may go on to compose the exoskeletons of crustaceans, or the cell walls of fungi.

Hoar Construction
When technology has advanced to the point that autonomous robotic construction like this can take place on a large scale, it could play a key role in eliminating safety issues in the construction industry, which account for 20% of all worker injuries in the U.S., according to Labor Department data cited in the study.

In addition, as the population of people living in cities increases from 54% to 66% in 2050, according to the study, collective robotics can help meet the urban construction demand that a limited workforce is struggling to keep up with. But robots are best supplemented by humans, the authors note, because mistakes are inevitable.

Most of the construction robots operating at a large-scale today are single systems, but they are achieving some of the same safety and labor-saving benefits.

The two categories of materials that construction robots handle are discrete, which pertains to individual objects like bricks or blocks, and continuous, which references a flow of concrete, fibers and other substances. Construction Robotics’ SAM 100 is a mobile robotic arm that automates the repetitive bricklaying process at a rate that the company says is three to five times more productive than a human mason and involves 80% less lifting. Its sister robot MULE takes the strain off human workers as they lift, handle and place blocks or other items on the site.

In the continuous category is the Cybe Construction-designed robot that 3D-printed a house in Milan last year using a mix of concrete and other additives. Concrete was squeezed through the robot’s nozzle in layers, Dezeen reported, and the full structure was completed within 48 hours, according to engineering firm Arup.

And as construction robotics continues to develop, the industry may discover some unexpected use cases, according to the Science Robotics report, such as disaster relief or construction in risky environments. U.S. Marines from the 1st Marine Logistics Group at Camp Pendleton in California, for example, said the concrete footbridge they were able to print in the field could be effective for operational and humanitarian relief efforts.
Tom Sawyer for ENR
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and international organizations from the U.S., England and the Netherlands released on Jan. 19 a 261-page book entitled “Engineering with Nature—An Atlas.” Available either as a hard copy or free download, the atlas showcases 56 projects around the world that apply the principles of an initiative to support engineering with nature, rather than against it, to protect the environment, infrastructure and quality of life.

The EWN movement seeks to leverage natural forces and risk-buffering natural features, such as wetlands and water-courses, to enhance sustainable, resilient, multipurpose infrastructure systems. The initiative includes a network of research projects, field demonstrations and communication activities with an emphasis on embracing innovation.

One technology finding a sweet spot in EWN is drones, which have the ability to scope project areas, survey sites and monitor project execution and performance over large areas of difficult terrain swiftly, safely and repeatedly, with a light touch on the environment.

“We are making more and more use of drones,” says Todd S. Bridges, the U.S. Army’s senior research scientist for environmental science at the Corps’ Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Miss. He is national lead on the EWN initiative.

Bridges says drones give planners a superior vantage point, particularly over coasts and wetlands, not only as they engineer a project, but also as they monitor construction and results. “Getting elevation data is pretty important, and getting good data can be hard to do,” says Bridges. “It can be a very convenient place to have a drone that is fixed with Lidar, in cases where a few inches really matter.” He says stand-off measurement technologies help monitor the environment and its evolution. “You have to be able to understand the environment if you are going to engineer it—especially for processes operating at landscape scale.”

Monica Chasten, project manager in the operations division of the Corps’ Philadelphia District, says her group has used drones to help document and monitor progress on several EWN projects in New Jersey, including the Mordecai Island project on p. 86 in the Atlas. Another use was on a “thin layer placement” application of dredged material to restore marsh near Avalon, and construction of two nesting habitats near Ring Island. More drone use is planned at the Seven Mile Island Living Laboratory that the Corps has established in back bays near Avalon.

Several project managers with the Nature Conservancy also report making increased use of drones for streambed restoration for the same reasons, and individual consulting fi rms are picking up local projects for this as well.

Greg Gloor, a surveyor with New Jersey civil and environmental engineering firm Dresdner Robin, used a drone to provide pro bono services to a citizens group in Pompton Lakes, N.J., led by Lauren Venin, a landscape architect and certified flood plain manager with the firm. Her volunteer group, the Pompton Lakes Flood Advisory Board, wanted to locate and rate the flood risk posed by downed trees and debris dams blocking three rivers in the town. A heavy snow in spring 2018 left a lot of tree damage on the banks. The board wanted to help the town scope the problem and plan remediation.

Venin says Gloor developed a methodology and conducted 11 flights to capture a continuous strip of high-resolution images of 6.5 miles of waterways. “Several show debris blocking more than half of the channel,” she says. “Most were fallen trees.”

The board brought the drone’s KML output into free QGIS software for data organization, and tagged and ranked the severity of 96 obstructions on aerial photos mapped to locations on Google Earth. The borough passed the data to its engineers to develop a work plan.

“We found it to be a
The first exhibition of Seoul’s Robot Museum will be the robots building the museum itself.

Seoul wants to have the world’s very first museum dedicated to robotic science. And the city authorities have decided on the best possible way to build it: use robots, of course.

The museum, designed by Turkish architectural firm Melike Altınışık, is designed to be one of the most recognizable buildings in the center of the Changbai New Economic Center, a newly redeveloped area in the center of northern part of the city.

Its organic form, a semi-sphere that seems to flow in waves to reveal a glass and steel base, will be built by robots. According to the firm’s design principal Melike Altınışık, the building has been conceived as a temple to robotic innovation, so the best way they could materialize that ethos was by using robotic arms to assemble the new space.First, a team of robots will mold the curved metal plates that form the museum sphere using a 3D building information modeling system (basically a CAD system that works with solid objects in real 3D space rather than represent the objects with 2D plans). Robots will assemble the plates, welding and polishing the metal to obtain its final surface appearance.

Then another team of robots, the architectural firm says, will 3D-print concrete to build the public area surrounding the museum.

This process will start in early 2020, with the museum opening its doors about two years after that.

My only question is: Are they using robots to build the robot builders, and, if so, who will build the robots that build those robots and would this infinity loop cause a tear in the space-time continuum that will suck the entire museum into a black hole?
Canadian Architect
The third in a series of pavilion projects at the University of British Columbia tests the limits of robotic wood fabrication technology.

Wood is a fascinating material. From an early age, we become familiar with its smell, texture and warmth, yet we are seldom challenged to re-invent how to work with it.

Since 2016, the three of us have led a team of researchers, students and professionals in creating full-scale pavilions at the University of British Columbia that explore new ways to design, fabricate and assemble wood. Wood is a natural partner for digital fabrication technologies because of its ability to be easily milled and shaped. These experimental structures demonstrate the capabilities of digital technologies to be used with wood in innovative ways that celebrate the material’s unique properties and potential for formal complexity.

Wander Wood, the third of these pavilions, completed last fall, is sheathed with rows of overlapping wood tabs, which change in shape to create a rounded form that rises to a peak. The pavilion implements the structural principle of a stressed skin, a system used in airplanes, where internal ribs form a template covered by thinner members elastically bent to form (or compute) the final shape. A public bench along the inner edge of the curved pavilion invites passersby to come inside for a closer look.

The individual pieces of the Wander Wood pavilion were milled using a state-of-the-art industrial robot, interlocked into place, and fastened together with metal rivets. Each individual component is embedded with enough assembly information to ensure exact placement of every subsequent piece, allowing for quick assembly on site. The geometric processing power of visual scripting was key in the design in order to define and manage 40 ribs, over 200 overlapping skin elements and 2,200 rivet perforations. The first step was to craft a robust workflow that enabled design iteration while ensuring the rapid output of precise geometry for fabrication. The result achieves the design vision while accounting for the material’s maximum bending radius and load transfer capacity, and the fabrication envelope of the CNC robot.

Alberto Cosi. ImageBamboo Sports Hall for Panyaden International School / Chiangmai Life Construction
It is, once again, the time of year where we look towards the future to define the goals and approaches that we will take for our careers throughout the upcoming year. To help the millions of architects who visit ArchDaily every day from all over the world, we compiled a list of the most popular ideas of 2018, which will continue to be developed and consolidated throughout 2019.

Over 130 million users discovered new references, materials, and tools in 2018 alone, infusing their practice of architecture with the means to improve the quality of life for our cities and built spaces. As users demonstrated certain affinities and/or demonstrated greater interest in particular topics, these emerged as trends.

Below, we present the trends that will influence urban and architectural discussions in 2019, with the year-over-year growth rates (YoY) that compare to the statistics of searches from 2017 to 2018.

1. Ways of Living: Greater Interest in Small Scale Homes

The Tiny Houses (+75% YoY) concept emerged strongly at the beginning of 2018. Whether it is a movement in response to ideological or financial situations, architects have become more involved in the development of practical and innovative solutions for small spaces. We can also include the interest for- living in dense urban centers, leading to the challenge of designing basic housing programs for spaces under 40 m2. (Searches related to Small Apartments increased by 121% in 2018).

2. Inclusive Architecture: First-Rate Design for Diverse Populations

Accessibility (+108% YoY), Universal Design (+116%) and Inclusive Architecture (+132%) were some of the most searched concepts on ArchDaily in 2018. In previous years the focus was mostly on architecture for children and reduced mobility, whereas this year we saw more searches related to Architecture for the Elderly (+78% YoY) and different capacities related to mental health (Architecture & Mental Health +101% YoY; Space Psychology +210% YoY) and visual impairments (Architecture for the Blind +250% YoY).

3. The Middle-East: Underrepresented Territories in Evidence

Just as we saw increasing interest in emerging practices in Latin America (+103.82% YoY) in the last two years, in 2018 we also saw an increase in searches related to the Middle East (+124% YoY). The conflict in Syria (+93% YoY) placed architects’ focus on Rebuilding (+102% YoY). In addition, global events peaked the interest of architects due to the magnitude of the structures involved. Both the city of Dubai (+104% YoY), which will be the host of World Expo 2020, and Qatar (+220% YoY), which will host the next soccer 2022 World Cup, increased considerably in search queries. Hashim Sarkis (+236% YoY), the Lebanese architect who was appointed curator of the Architecture Exhibition for the next Venice Biennial (2020), was one of the most searched persons during 2018.
Daniel Luis Martinez and Etien Santiago
Nowadays, architects seem to think that only structure and material research are hip and cool.

When did the fabricators take over the avant-garde? It seems that to be hip and cool in architecture these days, you have to work with six-axis robots, weaving pavilions out of carbon fiber, fiber, or even concrete in shapes that highlight the weirdness of the materials. You have to make forms that are odd in appearance, not only because they reject centuries of how we use form and structure to shelter ourselves, but because the logic of your distributed stresses and algorithmically defined planes dictate such apparitions. If you want to consider yourself as fighting on the barricades of new architecture without engaging in throwing parametric bombs, your only alternative is to create spaces that are meant to attract performances and social actions the likes of which you can’t quite define but that will happen exactly because your architecture is so open and loosely defined.

I had not realized how far the fabricators had gotten in taking over what I always thought was the fun part of architecture until I attended a symposium in Columbus, Ind., recently. That home to decades of experimentation in architecture, many of whose masterpieces were made possible through the patronage of the late J. Irwin Miller, has hosted only mediocrity in recent years, at least in terms of permanent and functioning buildings. On the other hand, Columbus is now the site for a biennial set of installations festooned mainly around the downtown landmarks. The conference I attended was a presentation of the designs that the organizers, Exhibit Columbus, will work to construct towards an August 2019 opening of the latest presentation.

There will be several groups of designs to see when the exhibition opens, the most prominent of which are six projects by academics who work with their students—and labs—to create site-specific installations. These are stringiest, swoopiest, and most bizarrely made of the lot. The other main category of installations consists of five J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize winners, who receive larger budgets to create designs that tended more towards the stage-set end of things.
Misty Robotics
Misty II is a development platform for engineers and makers that was created to change how we think about robots.

Developers may remember a time when you'd boot up your computer and all you'd get was a blank screen and blinking cursor. It was up to engineers and coders to build the content; the computer was just a platform. Ian Bernstein, founder and head of product at Misty Robotics, believes robots today are in that same place that computers were decades ago. “We're at that same point with robots today, where people are just building robots over and over with Raspberry Pis and Arduinos,” Bernstein told Design News.

Bernstein is calling for a departure from thinking of robots as tools and machines to thinking of them more as platforms. Misty Robotics has designed its flagship robot of the same name, Misty, with that idea in mind. “It's about giving people enough functionality to start to do useful things—but not too much, where it becomes too expensive or complicated,” Bernstein said. “It's also about complexity. For developers, it is not approachable if you don't know where to start.”

Boulder, Colorado-based Misty Robotics' upcoming product, Misty II, is a 2-ft-tall, 6-lb robot. It is designed to do what the smartphone has done for mobile app developers, but for robotics engineers and makers—provide access to powerful features to open up the robot for a variety of applications. At its core, Misty II is driven by a deep learning processor capable of a variety of machine learning tasks, such as facial and object recognition, distance detection, spatial mapping, and sound and touch sensing. Developers can also 3D print (or even laser cut or CNC machine) custom parts to attach to Misty to expand its functionality for moving and manipulating objects. Misty II will also feature USB and serial connectors as well as an optional Arduino attachment to allow for hardware expansion with additional sensors and other peripherals.(One planned for release by the company is a thermal imaging camera.)

There are already several single-purpose robots available to consumers to use in the home. People will be most familiar with the Roomba robotic vacuum, but there are also robotic window washers, lawnmowers, security guards, and even pool cleaners currently available.

Speaking with Design News ahead of CES 2019, where Misty II was available for hands-on demonstrations, Bernstein said that, while the idea of a smart home full of connected robots all going about their various tasks sounds like the wave of the future, he doesn't find this
S-Squared wants its Autonomous Robotic Construction System (ARCS) to revolutionize homebuilding

A group of friends on the south shore of Long Island, New York, working under the name S-Squared, think they can revolutionize the way that homes are built, using a self-made 3D printing rig that they claim can lay down a home in a little more than 30 hours.

“This will be the first time a real house is going to be built with 3D printing,” says Bob Smith, an S-Squared co-founder. “Everyone else has put up sheds.”

In March, S-Squared plans to erect a demonstration home on the ground of Suffolk Cement, in nearby Calverton. Using their proprietary Autonomous Robotic Construction System (ARCS), a 3D-printing rig that extrudes concrete to construct homes, commercial buildings, and even bridges, the company plans to construct a 1,490-square-foot, two-bedroom home later this year and obtain a certificate of occupancy.

The promised sale price—under $200,000, due to the reduction in manpower and labor costs—would be a game-changer for an expensive market such as Long Island. It would also be a new entry into the wide field of firms seeking to perfect and commercialize the process of mass-producing homes using 3D printing. At a time when venture capital-backed constructions startups raised more than a billion dollars last year in a race to make the building industry more efficient, a small, mostly self-funded startup from Long Island with 13 employees stands out.

“We are looking to be a disruptor,” says Smith. “But we’re not the class clowns. We’re just the ones who would keep asking the teacher, ‘why does it have to be that way?’”

S-Squared originated four years ago when a group of friends in the town of Patchogue became frustrated with the restrictions and regulations around building. Tired of the standard litany of delays and permitting, they joked with an inspector that they would build a machine that builds homes, just tell us what can get approved and it’ll spit it out.
In 2016, Ecole des Ponts ParisTech has established an advanced masters program with a focus on digital fabrication and robotics. Currently recruiting for its fourth installment, the Design by Data Advanced Masters Program appeals to architects, engineers, and tech-oriented designers. Since its launch in 2016, the program’s director Francesco Cingolani has sought to shape the relationship between architecture and technology by creating a cross-disciplinary culture between the two.

As previously mentioned on Archdaily, students study the main components of the program - computational design, digital culture and design, and additive manufacturing and robotic fabrication - throughout the 12-month program to fulfill Design by Data’s main objectives while working with peers in a dynamic learning environment. While providing each participant with both technical skills and an aesthetic eye, the program ensures students will also gain critical knowledge of current innovative trends and ongoing research. By exposing them to technology through hands-on use of tools of digital fabrication, the program will teach students to approach design through a process-oriented lens.

"Computational design, to me, is a completely new way of thinking about architecture and design that merges digital arts and engineering. Computational design is mainly about how we can use algorithms, mathematics, and generative thinking to create a novelty of architecture and object with complex geometries that are not standard.” --Francesco Cingolani, co-founder the Design by Data Program.

The program created a Makerspace, an interdisciplinary learning platform for prototyping. Makerspace "fosters interdisciplinarity between the various fields of expertise represented in the school and in neighboring schools." According to Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, students develop transferable skills in various disciplines by making and coding. They view the "Designer-Builder" "in this environment as a strategist, capable of conceiving and leading new methodologies for problem-solving."
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