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How virtual reality can help robots change the face of the construction industry

October 29, 2020

The construction industry is one of the largest industries in the world economy, accounting for 13 percent of the world’s GDP. In the U.S. alone, it employs over seven million people and creates nearly $1.3 trillion worth of structures each year. But it also is one of the slowest in terms of embracing new technology and increasing productivity and growth.

Challenged by safety concerns and labor shortages, the construction industry has shown signs of stagnation. Artificial intelligence and automation offer opportunities to advance the industry, however, these come with tremendous challenges—including a lack of education and understanding on how construction teams and robots can successfully work together.

Researchers at the USC Viterbi Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) are tackling these challenges with virtual reality (VR) trainings to teach construction professionals to team with robots to do their jobs more safely and efficiently. The team includes: from the CEE Department Chair Lucio Soibelman, Dean’s Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Burçin Becerik-Gerber and Ph.D. candidates Pooya Adami and Patrick Rodrigues; Research Assistant Professor at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies Gale Lucas; and from the USC Rossier School of Education Assistant Professor Yasemin Copur-Gencturk and Postdoctoral Research Associate Peter Wood.

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