Design manager Chris Townsend talks about his experience trialling the EksoVest and how it could signal the advent of robot technology in construction….

I’m excited to be trialling an emerging technology that could one day change the industry.

I first found out about Eksoskeletons when I was in the USA. I knew straightaway this was something that could revolutionise how people work on construction sites by reducing strain and exertion associated with unavoidable manual tasks. I wanted to see how this could work for Willmott Dixon so used our Eureka new ideas fund to purchase an EksoVest from Ekso Bionics in California to trial.

While it’s exciting to see sci-fi becoming a reality when being utilised in this way, we must remember that the vest’s primary function is to reduce human risk and protect worker welfare rather than replace people.

In the future, if roles are lost to robots then new ones should be created as a direct result. For instance, the loss of a physical brick laying job could be replaced by that of a ‘brick laying robot engineer’, this may also have the added benefit of helping to attract new, tech savvy, entrants into construction.

Perhaps within 100 years you’ll see a fully autonomous construction site; essentially one that is operated entirely via robots with the human interface typically limited to remote input and management. While that may be initially met with caution and scepticism, we do need to be prepared to embrace this level of change so that robotics are regarded not as a threat but as something that is positive, ultimately leading to a more resilient, efficient and safer industry renowned for embracing cutting-edge technology.