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Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Construction Planned

9/17/2020 1:00:42 PM

A University of Illinois team has received grants and support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) to plan the establishment of the National Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Construction.

“This initiative will lead to the first-of-its-kind institute for the application of AI in design, construction and operation of buildings and infrastructure systems,” said project lead Mani Golparvar-Fard, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  

Mani Golparvar-Fard
Mani Golparvar-Fard

Researchers hope that the initiative will advance both the application of AI in construction and the science of AI research in general.

“Machine learning and AI are in the national spotlight because they can solve important problems,” said Derek Hoiem, co-principal investigator and associate professor of Computer Science at Illinois. “But the set of problems that can be solved is currently constrained by a need for huge quantities of annotated data, so domain-independent AI research tends to concentrate on topics where known methods will succeed. We believe applying AI methods to construction problems will produce a seismic shift in AI research.”

Derek Hoiem
Derek Hoiem

“There is a compelling combination of complex problems in construction with open environments, multiple modalities and clear use-inspired objectives, where the solutions can be guided by carefully designed taxonomies and strong metrics for verifying success,” said David A. Forsyth, co-principal investigator, Fulton Watson Copp Chair and professor in Computer Science at Illinois. 

“We believe our inter-disciplinary team together with the broader AI community can address the urgent productivity, safety and maintenance problems of the construction industry, and that doing so will drive foundational advances in AI that enable broader application across many other industries,” said Golparvar-Fard, who is also an affiliate professor in Computer Science.

David A. Forsyth
David A. Forsyth

More than 40 industry partners from architecture, engineering, construction, owner, technology providers and venture capital investment firms will join researchers from the University of Illinois and Carnegie Mellon University in this multi-disciplinary effort to design the new institute through a series of planning workshops. The goal is to identify key areas for the highest impact of AI in design, construction and operation of the built environment. The team will also actively engage in the development of AI methods and tools, as well as entrepreneurship education, to bring these solutions to the market. 

“Our goal is to develop communities and capacity to found an AI institute for construction which will create the foundational ideas, technologies and technical workforce that allow AI research to support safe, productive, efficient design, construction and maintenance of national buildings and infrastructure systems,” Golparvar-Fard said. “The institute can serve as a foothold for integration of AI and the construction industries that currently have little interaction. We plan to use this opportunity to build consensus on the educational programs and compelling and well-defined research problems that will have the most impact on the construction industry and drive general advances in AI.”

Example of a research project, where in images and videos from drones, 360 cameras and cell phones are transformed into 3D as-builts and are integrated with 2D and 3D design information in the context of the project schedule to compare and visualize various project performance metrics.
Example of a research project, where in images and videos from drones, 360 cameras and cell phones are transformed into 3D as-builts and are integrated with 2D and 3D design information in the context of the project schedule to compare and visualize various project performance metrics.

In addition to principal investigator Golparvar-Fard and co-principal investigators Derek Hoiem and David A. Forsyth, the University of Illinois team includes Julia Hockenmaier from Computer Science; Khaled El-RayesNora El-Gohary and EJ Ignacio from Civil and Environmental Engineering;  and Randy Deutsch from the school of Architecture. Additional team members from Carnegie Mellon University are Burcu Akinci and Pingbo Tang.

University of Illinois’ Rover for Construction. The ground robot maps and learns indoor construction environments and autonomously repeats 3D reality mapping to document construction progress, quality and safety on a regular basis.
University of Illinois’ Rover for Construction. The ground robot maps and learns indoor construction environments and autonomously repeats 3D reality mapping to document construction progress, quality and safety on a regular basis.

The Discovery Partners Institute empowers people to jumpstart their tech careers or companies in Chicago. Led by the University of Illinois System in partnership with top research universities, it does three things: train people for high-demand tech jobs; conduct applied R&D; and support Chicago’s tech community. With state investment and a new innovation district in development, DPI has the resources to attract, develop and leverage the most ambitious people and companies the region has to offer — and keep them here.


See the original CEE story.