Robots on Construction Sites— Will GUT Middle Class

THERESA AREVALO WAS in high school when she first tried fin­ish­ing dry­wall at her brother’s con­struc­tion com­pa­ny. “It’s a fine art,” she says of mudding—applying and smooth­ing dry­wall. “Like frost­ing a cake, you have to give the illu­sion that the wall is flat.”

Fast-for­ward a few decades: Areva­lo now works at Can­vas, a com­pa­ny that’s built a robot using arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence that’s capa­ble of dry­walling with almost as much artistry as a skilled human worker.

The robot has been deployed, under Arevalo’s super­vi­sion, at sev­er­al con­struc­tion sites in recent months, includ­ing the new Har­vey Milk Ter­mi­nal at San Fran­cis­co Inter­na­tion­al Air­port and an office build­ing con­nect­ed to the Chase Cen­ter are­na in San Francisco.

About the size of a kitchen stove, the four-wheeled robot nav­i­gates an unfin­ished build­ing car­ry­ing laser scan­ners and a robot­ic arm fit­ted to a ver­ti­cal plat­form. When placed in a room, the robot scans the unfin­ished walls using lidar, then gets to work smooth­ing the sur­face before apply­ing a near per­fect lay­er of dry­wall com­pound; sen­sors help it steer clear of human workers.

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