New research shows how artificial intelligence (AI) can help boost the productivity of construction workers while reducing wear-and-tear injuries.
Using motion sensors and AI software, researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada have found that expert bricklayers use previously unidentified techniques to limit the loads on their joints.
Rather than following the standard ergonomic rules taught to novices, master masons develop their own ways of working quickly and safely, including more swinging than lifting of blocks and less bending of their backs.
Thanks to the research, this knowledge can now be passed on to apprentices in training programmes.
“The people in skilled trades learn or acquire a kind of physical wisdom that they can’t even articulate,” explained Carl Haas, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Waterloo.
“They’re basically doing the work twice as fast with half the effort — and they’re doing it with higher quality.”
The researchers started out by analysing data from bricklayers of various experience levels who wore sensor suits while building a wall with concrete blocks. The data showed that experts put less stress on their bodies, but were able to do much more work.
To determine how the more experienced masons work so efficiently, a follow-up study was conducted using sensors to record their movements and AI computer programs to identify patterns of body positions.
Further research will take an in-depth look at how the experts move on the job.
As part of their work, the researchers are also developing a system that uses sensor suits to give trainees immediate feedback so they can modify their movements to reduce stress on their bodies.