Australia’s first Robotics Roadmap designed to guide and support the development of robotic technology to transform Australia’s construction industry was launched in early June.

The Robotics Roadmap is expected to benefit the construction industry through guiding and supporting the development of new critical robotic technology to reduce injury and fatality rates, and also improve productivity.

Leaders in academia, industry and government across the construction industry helped shape the Roadmap through submissions and workshops held in late 2017.

The world-leading Australian Centre for Robotic Vision pioneered the Robotics Roadmap concept, collated submissions and co-ordinated the vital national roadshow across five Australian capital cities ahead of producing the report.

“We are thrilled to officially present Australia’s first Robotics Roadmap today in Canberra,” Centre for Robotic Vision’s Chief Operating Officer, Dr Sue Keay, said.

“The Robotics Roadmap is a first step towards a national strategy to invest in robotic technology to create and support a vibrant economy, community and nation.

“It’s excellent news for Australia’s construction industry with a number of new technologies currently being developed that can help with workplace safety and productivity.”

Australia’s aging population and strong residential activity is stimulating demand for more project managers, construction managers, labourers and contract administrators.

“The ongoing skills shortage in Australia’s construction industry is only exacerbated by the next generation’s reluctance to pursue traditional occupations. Advances and more investment in robotic technology and automation will help address this skills shortage,” said Dr Keay.

Due to the large scale of many construction projects even a small improvement to efficiency can make a big difference to the productivity of the project and result in significant cost savings.

Robot technologies such as motion control, navigation and computer vision are increasingly integrated in previously manned platforms such as cranes. As outlined in the Robotics Roadmap, advances in technology will see robotics tackling increasingly complex physical and cognitive tasks.

“We know from consulting industry experts that there’s strong industry need for regulation technology in construction and this is another area where robotics can help. Advanced robotic and vision systems can be deployed to monitor and enforce worker safety and identify and ameliorate potential hazards,” Dr Keay said.

“With Australia currently ranked as 18th in the world for global automation by the International Federation of Robotics, it’s time we start understanding robots as everyday problem solvers rather than scientific fantasy. As a community, we need to build on Australia’s strengths in robotic vision to change the way we approach construction.

“This is not just about making industries more automated; it’s about making sure our future robotics and computer vision technologies drive the transformation of existing industries, and create safer and more productive workplaces for Australian workers and businesses.”

Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel emphasised the importance of the roadmap in unlocking Australia’s robotics potential.

“When I was a child, robots were the realm of science fiction alone. Even through the decades that followed, simple automation and machines failed to fill the grand promises made by my favourite books.

“But in the last few years, that’s all changed – robots and artificial intelligence are appearing in every industry sector, with huge practical impact on the way we live, work, and plan for the future. This roadmap shows just how quickly this field is moving, and the rewards available to a robot-ready Australia.”

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