Innovation in the Construction Industry
Recently, we’ve been approached by the founders of incon.ai to look for opportunities to implement their groundbreaking technology in one of our upcoming projects.
Innovation, Research and Development are at the core of everything we do at StoneCycling. We’re always looking for partners to collaborate with and improve how our products are created and used.
Incon.ai develops precision AR for construction projects. Their innovative guidance software allows builders to interact with 3D building models on-site by using computer vision and augmented reality to turn smartphones, tablets, or AR headsets into tools that give intuitive instructions and real-time feedback.
Not only does this technology make printed plans and blueprints obsolete, the robotic bricklaying technology software takes care of all measuring and working steps, empowering anyone to “build the impossible”. It is now possible to create patterns and 3D reliefs that are impossible to create with traditional masonry. This offers exciting new possibilities for architects and designers.
Tell us – are passionate about changing the future of construction? Then this article is for you and we would love to hear from you to see if we could work together. For a quick introduction, make sure to check out the video below:
Instructive Construction Through AR
Technology is one of the key enablers for innovation since computer modelling means virtually anything that can be dreamed of can be designed. It also provides the tools to facilitate construction more swiftly and safely. All of which should reduce inherent risks. But when it comes to adopting innovation in construction technology, conservatism within the industry remains, with most firms content to follow rather than lead.
Time for some disruption!
Incon.ai is based in Zurich, Switzerland and was founded by Timothy Sandy (CEO), Fadri Furrer (CTO) and Abel Gawel (COO). They each have a PhD in degree in robotics construction from ETH Zurich and are passionate about innovative design and construction. Their aim is to give humans robotic vision!
Whether you’re working on home furniture assembly or full-scale construction projects, incon.ai precision guidance tools bring technological innovation in construction to a whole other level.
Robotic Construction + Human Craftsmanship
While standard robotic systems are very suitable to achieve intricate brickwork designs with high efficiency, they come with limitations, such as limited mobility and dexterity, or the handling of certain building materials such as mortar.
The incon.ai software makes it possible to combine the advantages of computer design and human craftsmanship with technology that precisely guides complex construction tasks. It takes construction robotics and construction automation to a whole new level.
New technology should not just drive improved productivity in building construction, but unlock creativity to build unseen structures — INCON.AI
Masons Guided by Augmented Reality
Augmented Bricklaying combines the advantages of computational design with the dexterity of humans, supporting an entirely new way of fabrication.
This is how it works, step-by-step:
- First, the architects draft the design of their project as a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) model and load the 3D plans into the software.
- While working on-site, the masons direct a camera at the brickwork. The software recognizes the objects and compares the position of the individual components with those in the virtual design. It precisely relates what has already been physically built to the digital model, exceeding the accuracy of conventional holographic representations.
- A monitor with a craft-specific user interface shows the masons exactly how they need to place the individual bricks by optically instructing them with intuitive visual cues via digital pointers. The device locates and tracks the geometry of the structure during construction with millimetre-scale accuracy. The masons no longer depend on physical templates such as 2D blueprints or manual measurement tools.
- Construction is continuously monitored to improve build quality and avoid costly mistakes.
Sustainability in the Construction Industry
The construction industry is one of the oldest and largest in the world, and it plays a key role in the development and economic growth of all industrialised nations. Yet somehow, we are still using the same basic building techniques we have for over a century!
By looking at the state of our planet, we believe that it’s time to prioritise sustainability in the construction sector. Apart from developing new building materials and using energy sources that maximise efficiency and lower our carbon footprint, this cannot be done without technological innovation.
Technology plays an integral part in helping the construction industry realise the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by enabling enhanced design, planning and construction. When applied effectively, technology, ranging from automation to robotics in construction, can also significantly boost a sector that for many years failed to improve productivity.
That said, a 2016 survey conducted by KPMG showed that the construction industry’s biggest hurdle to implementing innovation is the stakeholders’ mindset. For some, the cost and risk of adopting new technologies outweigh the perceived benefits. Others may be reluctant to move out of their comfort zone and are hesitant when it comes to innovations such as AI, AR, robotics and automation in construction.
Despite a rise in project complexity and associated risks, of the firms that took part in the survey, just 8 per cent fall into the “cutting-edge visionary” category, while 69 per cent are considered either “followers” or “behind the curve.”
The tracking algorithms enable masons to work with enhanced spatial precision, while still preserving and capitalising on their craft and expertise in mortar handling. — INCON.AI
But there is also positive news:
The USG Corporation + U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2019 Q4 Commercial Construction Index (CCI) states that 78% of contractors say technology on the job site could improve project delivery and labour productivity, and anticipate increasing usage in the coming years.
Especially when it comes to Artificial Intelligence (AI, the technology that allows machines to learn), research by Accenture shows that it has the potential to boost rates of profitability by an average of 38 per cent by 2035 and lead to an economic boost of US$14 trillion across 16 industries in 12 economies by 2035.
For the construction industry specifically, the share-of-profit increase between baseline in 2035 and AI steady state in 2035 is estimated to be 71 per cent, with an increase of real annual GVA growth of 1.1 per cent and an increase of real GVA of 1.5 trillion US$ in 2035. It seems that new innovations in the construction industry could lead to great results!
But this will only happen if organisations adopt a different mindset and take bold and responsible steps to apply new technologies to their business.
Unifying a Fragmented Market with Robotic Building Construction
The building construction industry needs to improve productivity in the face of increasing demand and the growing complexity of building projects. At StoneCycling, we can see how the incon.ai robotic building construction technologies can enable you to deliver complex projects easier, cheaper and faster.
It allows entirely new shapes and structures to be created and the intuitive AR overlays can be used not just for masonry and bricklaying, but also for drilling, plastering or excavation.
The new technology guides complex construction tasks much more accurately than other AR solutions. For example, it detects and tracks objects despite occluded views or background clutter. Even a strong camera shake or a system restart is not a problem. And of course, you can work with both standard and innovative construction materials, such as our WasteBasedBricks®.
From wavelike patterns to shadow plays and acoustic effects: bricks can be placed at special angles to create aesthetic architectural designs that were hard or even impossible to build before, both for exterior and interior projects.
It would take an enormous effort to achieve such precision (positioning individual bricks with millimetre accuracy) with conventional building plans and masonry techniques. The tracking algorithms enable masons to work with enhanced spatial precision, while still preserving and capitalising on their craft and expertise in mortar handling.
By using the fully-integrated add-ons to well-established building modelling software, the flow of digital data among the many actors in construction projects will also be improved.
2019 Case Study
At the Kitrvs Winery in Greece, masons realised a design by ETH architects from Gramazio Kohler through the use of the incon.ai software, which was previously only achievable by robotic systems.
The semi-transparent design of the 225 m² facade of the winery is built with 13596 handmade bricks. Gaps between the individual bricks allow for ventilation and control the strong sunlight entering the building. The design for the brick walls was achieved through a variety of applied mortar heights, making the mortar a defining element in the appearance of the facade.
This project was finished by local masons in less than three months through the use of a custom made dynamic optical guidance system. It is currently the largest project entirely assembled on-site with an interactive design system and augmented reality interface and is a finalist for Industrial Building of the Year on ArchDaily.
Become a Pioneer in Augmented Bricklaying
Incon.ai is currently assessing how its technology could be positioned in the market and who would benefit from it.
They are developing apps for both consumer and professional builders and continue to refine the technology by making the software more precise, stable and above all user-friendly. They are also working to accelerate the entire process so that computer-assisted construction will eventually be just as quick as conventional methods.
Are you also excited about innovation in the construction industry? Looking to distinguish your next project by offering exciting and aesthetic designs to your clients? Make sure to get in touch with us to make this happen.
We are looking for architects keen to work together with us on designing creative brick facades or interiors, as well as real estate developers or clients willing to commission such a project.
Remember: you are only limited by your imagination!