Collaborative Proposal: FW-HTF-P: Anthropocentric Robot Collaboration in Construction
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Labor-intensive construction accounts for a significant portion of the U.S. economy. However, construction suffers from significant occupational injuries/deaths, stagnant productivity, a lack of skilled laborers, and an aging workforce. As one means to address these issues, the construction industry is gradually adopting robotic automation, particularly in human-robot collaboration where humans and robots work together in unstructured and dynamic construction environments. Despite recent advancement of the functionality and capability of robots, many fundamental questions in human-robot collaboration remain unanswered. These include: 1. How can a robot work with a human worker, and build and maintain trust when they work together in the same space? 2. What are the best strategies to design future construction tasks and work environments for such human-robot collaboration? 3. How can the construction industry retrain existing workers and attract new ones in this new and unprecedented working environment? To answer these questions, this project carries out a human-centered investigation where a human worker''s response to different scenarios of human-robot collaboration in construction is non-invasively and continuously monitored in order to maximize the overall performance of human-robot collaboration. The outcome of the investigation has the potential to build foundational knowledge on how we can prepare our existing and new workforce for future construction. Researchers have identified three major open research areas in human-robot construction. First is the in-depth understanding of human''s physical, cognitive and emotional response in human-robot collaboration, a critical knowledge in allowing a robot''s adaptable behaviors to be calibrated to a human response. Second is to explore how to redesign construction tasks, operations, and job sites to better serve human-robot collaboration. Studying such designs could involve a significant number of tests in the real world which may be impractical or infeasible, thus innovative testing technologies and methods are needed. Third involves strategies for training new and existing workers for future human-robot collaborative construction. In this project, researchers will test the feasibility of the three following research activities in the context of the above research areas: 1) testing wearable biosensors to non-invasively and continuously measure a human worker''s emotional response in human-robot collaboration; 2) investigating the feasibility of virtual reality as an alternative to certain real construction tests for redesigning tasks and job sites for human-robot collaboration; and 3) organizing two workshops to collect broad perspectives from different stakeholders and experts to refine research thrusts for future human-robot collaboration in construction. The ultimate goal of this project is to develop the necessary research personnel, research infrastructure, and foundational work to expand the opportunities for studying future technology, future workers, and future work at the level of a FW-HTF full research proposal. This award reflects NSF''s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation''s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.