Safe Robotic Interactions in Construction

To undertake investigations and design work to enable safe co-working between human construction workers and robots
Description of the Project: 

Recently we have witnessed an increase in the presence of robotics within the industries that shape our economy [2]. Industries such as agriculture and manufacturing have quickly been populated with automated processes to, not only increase productivity, but decrease the danger some tasks may pose to human workers.  The construction industry plays a huge part in our economy as it covers 6.8% of all jobs in the UK [3] but also accounted for 38 deaths and 58,000 non-fatal injuries in 2017/18. Furthermore, musculoskeletal disorders, as a result of endless manual handling, account for 62% of all work-related illnesses in the UK construction industry [1]., These statistics make construction one of the most dangerous industries to work for in the UK today [1]. Robotics can help address this situation, while additionally improving construction labour productivity, which is also highlighted as an area of poor performance of the sector [4,5]. While construction is currently an extremely unautomated industry, efforts are beginning to be made to overcome the historic problems. These consist of robots capable of brick-laying, 3D printing, demolition, flying drones for work-site inspections, metal welding and controlling autonomous vehicles. Robots and augmented reality to enable co-working between the robot and the worker in order to reduce the possibility of incidents of injury, especially in terms of assisting with manual lifting and handling on-site.

Method: This project will use a user centered design methodology, which will include key elements of participatory design, in which the end user (in this case the construction worker) is viewed as co-designer.  The student will then design pilot interactions for operational testing within the construction labs available at Heriot-Watt University before evaluating in a controlled way on the construction sites of the industry partner.

Project number: 
First Supervisor: 
Heriot-Watt University
Second Supervisor(s): 
First supervisor university: 
Heriot-Watt University
Essential skills and knowledge: 
Computer programming, HCI/Interaction Design
Desirable skills and knowledge: 
ROS, Python

[1] Health and Safety Executive. Construction statistics in Great Britain, 2018, Oct 2018.

[2] Mi jeong Kim, Hung-Lin Chi, Xiangyu Wang, and Lieyun Ding. Automation and robotics in construction and civil engineering. Journal of Intelligent Robotic Systems, 79, 08 2015.

[3] Chris Rhodes. Construction industry: statistics and policy, Dec 2018.

[4] F. Haynes, Construction statistics: Number 19, 2018 edition, ONS Report, 2018.

[5] Robotics Online Marketing Team. Construction robots will change the industry forever, Apr 2018