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HCI Webinar: Integrating Robots into the Workforce, with Henning Roedel and Tristen Magallanes

In the latest HCI Webinar, Dr. Jonathan H. Westover talks with Henning Roedel and Tristen Magallanes about how robots are being integrating into the workforce! Check out the full episode and let us know what you think!


Watch the episode here:


Robotics Integration in the Workforce Discussion


Jonathan introduced the topic of integrating robotics into the workforce and outlined how the conversation would unfold. He explained that he would start by giving a general welcome, introduce the participants, share their backgrounds, and then lead an organic conversation based on some pre-determined questions. Participants Tristen Magallanes and Henning agreed with the plan. Jonathan then correctly pronounced their names and started the recording.


Robotics in Construction: A Game Changer


Jonathan initiated a discussion about the integration of robotics into the workforce, with a particular focus on the construction industry. Henning and Tristen provided an overview of the history and current state of robotics, highlighting its initial emergence in manufacturing and its recent adoption in construction due to a workforce shortage and the availability of new technologies. They discussed the use of robots in single-task and multitask applications, such as layout assistance and safety measures for overhead lifting. Henning also mentioned ongoing research involving four-legged robots and concrete 3D printing. The panelists agreed that despite the challenges, including the need for transportation and calibration, the potential benefits of robotics in construction, such as improved safety and efficiency, were significant.


Pandemic and Generational Shift Impact on Construction Labor Market


Jonathan and Henning discussed the impact of the pandemic and other economic factors on the construction industry's labor market. Henning highlighted a generational shift as a significant factor affecting the workforce, with experienced workers retiring or leaving the industry, while new generations are not entering the industry as expected. Henning also mentioned the industry's efforts to address the labor shortage through automation, prefabrication, and diversity and inclusion initiatives. However, he acknowledged that the industry faces challenges in attracting younger generations due to the nature of the work, which is often laborious, involves long hours, and can be hazardous.


Robotics in Construction: Diversity and Safety


Tristen and Jonathan discussed the potential of robotics in the construction industry to attract a more diverse workforce and make the work environment safer and more comfortable. Tristen highlighted the opportunity to introduce more women and differently able-bodied individuals to the industry through the use of robotics. Jonathan shared his experience working in construction and expressed his belief that advancements in technology could make the profession more appealing. Both agreed that robotics should not be seen as a threat to jobs but rather as a tool to assist in repetitive and dangerous tasks. Henning concurred, emphasizing that these advancements would allow workers to focus on more creative and skill-based tasks.


Robots and Craftsmanship: A Discussion on Impact and Opportunity


Tristen and Jonathan discussed the impact of robots on the workforce, particularly in craftsmanship jobs. Tristen argued that while robots could assist in these tasks, they would not fully replace human input. Jonathan agreed, emphasizing that new tools often lead to new opportunities in the workforce. They also discussed the selective application of robots, emphasizing the importance of safety and quality improvements in construction projects. Henning, who was not present at the meeting, commented that they look for tools that help their direct workforce and address safety concerns.


Robotics and Training in Construction Discussed


Jonathan facilitated a discussion with Tristen and Henning about their work, focusing on robotics and training in the construction industry. Tristen emphasized the importance of training, particularly in the context of developing applications, and suggested that leveraging union partners could be beneficial. Henning shared his thoughts on the intersection of robotics and construction, highlighting the potential of humanoid robotics to intuitively interface with workers. He also discussed DPR's role in building the infrastructure that supports robotics and AI, and addressed the company's commitment to addressing productivity issues and labor shortages in the industry. Both agreed on the importance of building on Earth as a step to building on the moon, reflecting on the role of robotics in such endeavors.


Listen to the episode here:


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