David Kravets, writing for Ars Technica:

A judge on Thursday declared as unconstitutional a local Wisconsin ordinance mandating that the makers of augmented reality games get special use permits if their mobile apps were to be played in county parks. The law—the nation’s first of its kind—was challenged on First Amendment grounds amid concerns it amounted to a prior restraint of a game maker’s speech. What’s more, the law was seemingly impossible to comply with.

The federal lawsuit was brought by a Southern California company named Candy Lab. The maker of Texas Rope ‘Em—an augmented reality game with features like Pokemon Go—sued Milwaukee County after it adopted an AR ordinance in February in the wake of the Pokemon Gocraze. Because some of its parks were overrun by a deluge of players, the county began requiring AR makers to get a permit before their apps could be used in county parks.

The permitting process also demanded that developers perform the impossible: estimate crowd size, event dates, and the times when mobile gamers would be playing inside county parks. The permits, which cost as much as $1,000, also required that developers describe plans for garbage collection, bathroom use, on-site security, and medical services. Without meeting those requirements, augmented reality publishers would be in violation of the ordinance if they published games that included playtime in Milwaukee County parks.

Central to its position, Milwaukee County tried to argue that Augmented Reality apps were not protected by the First Amendment. Why?

Because according to the county, the game “does not convey any messages or ideas. Unlike books, movies, music, plays and video games—mediums of expression that typically enjoy First Amendment protection—Texas Rope ‘Em has no plot, no storylines, no characters, and no dialogue. All it conveys is a random display of cards and a map.”

This is a preliminary injunction, and ultimately the matter will be determined in trial, currently not calendared until April of next year.

Construction Junkie’s Shane Hedmond shared the following:

Runnur, a mobile tech gear company, has developed a hands-free belt clip system for your tablet that’s perfect for construction professionals. The belt clip system attaches to the case you already own and allows you to store it on your hip, keeping your hands free, when it’s not in use.  Also included is a security cord, which keeps the tablet from hitting the ground if you accidentally drop it. The $99 belt clip is compatible with most tablets, but larger tablets like the Surface Pro and iPad Pro may need to upgrade to the beefier Tablet Tool Belt.

To give you an idea of what it looks like, here is a video:

This is so cool! Years ago, I was able to find a special pouch that would go on a standard tool belt that was meant for holding a clipboard, but could also hold an iPad. When performing back-to-back inspections all day long, especially when inspecting roofs or attics, being able to safely toss my iPad in the pouch to free up my hands was indispensable.

These days, I prefer to carry less stuff when performing inspections and thereby avoid the tacky looking tool belt — or worse: a fishing vest! — so I don’t expect to be purchasing this any time soon. However, if I found myself doing 40 hours of inspections a week again, this would be high on my list of priorities for both protecting my gear, as well as for improved ergonomics.

Slate’s podcast, Working, profiles various professionals in an attempt to understand what certain unique jobs entail. In a recent episode, Jacob Brogan profiled Mark Hughes, a self-described “cell technical specialist” who performs forensic analysis of batteries:

The lab where Hughes works is an enormous facility, coming in at around 85,000 square feet. It includes equipment that allows the company to put in-development batteries through their paces under unusual and extreme circumstances. (If your memory of how batteries work is, like mine, fuzzy, fear not: Hughes also clearly explains the underlying processes.) They can, for example, test how those cells perform under temperatures higher or lower than any driver would be likely to encounter.

“When those batteries fail … they’re then given to me, and then I perform what’s called a battery teardown,” Hughes tells us. “What I do is I literally cut the pouch that the battery is encased in. I open it up, and I look through the electrodes and try to piece together what happened in the chemistry of the battery during these extremely strenuous test environments.” He and his colleagues then try to create a report that can help the company and its suppliers ensure the next generation of models will function better.

Though Hughes also goes into detail about the other elements of his work, it’s the process of pulling apart a battery and inspecting the insides that clearly excites him most. “The teardowns are absolutely the most fun part of my job,” Hughes says. “Because teardowns are such nonstandard work, there really is no handbook for how to do a battery teardown. … Small variations could result in huge consequences throughout the battery.”

The process Hughes describes above is fairly similar to the destructive testing protocols we use in the investigation of building performance issues. So, I can absolutely relate to that feeling of excitement that comes from performing a root cause analysis of a failure mechanism, with the express goal of preventing future incidents of failure.

First the robots came for manufacturing jobs. Then they went after skilled labor. Now, robots are going after inspectors.

Reuters’ Alwyn Scott reports on a new business line at GE dedicated to a mostly automated process of inspecting buildings and other facilities:

General Electric Co has begun testing autonomous drones and robotic “crawlers” to inspect refineries, factories, railroads and other industrial equipment with an eye on capturing a bigger slice of the $40 billion companies around the globe spend annually on inspections.

In trials with customers, aerial drones and robots are able to move around and inside remote or dangerous facilities while photographing corrosion or taking temperature, vibration or gas readings that can be analyzed by computer algorithms and artificial intelligence, Alex Tepper, head of business development at Avitas Systems, a startup GE formed for this business, told Reuters.

Some notes:

  • First and foremost, this is for petroleum, transportation and energy distribution systems
  • GE will not be replacing all human involvement, though it will be leveraging artificial intelligence to further improve the inspection technology
  • IBM has already proven the use of AI in detecting manufacturing defects

The primary driver for developing this capability is attrition among experienced inspectors. This parallels what is happening in the construction industry: highly experienced skilled professionals are retiring, yet few younger folks are drawn to the industry.

According to Dylan Martin at BostInno, a new startup called Dispatch has successfully raised a $12-million round of venture capital from an enviable list of investors that includes ServiceMaster, Liberty Mutual Strategic Ventures, Salesforce and Assurant.

What does Dispatch do?

The easiest way to describe Dispatch is this: the Boston startup has built a software platform that lets people book home services professionals for things like pest control and appliance repair, with the ease of use found in apps like Uber.

[…]

Dispatch’s software helps home service providers offer features that people have come to expect with the proliferation of apps like Uber, OpenTable and Airbnb, such as the ability to schedule appointments, communicate with providers directly, receive job updates and make payments. The startup said its software now serves more than 50,000 homes a day.

Why does this matter? Dispatch’s CEO and founder Avi Goldberg says that, “by creating that operating system and infrastructure, we’re giving the toolkit to enterprises so they can compete for homeowners that want a modern customer experience.”

Jennifer Hermes, writing for Environmental Leader:

Risk management professionals should be leading the charge to help their companies understand how disruptive technologies will affect business strategies and operations – and those risk managers who don’t lead the way will be relegated to a support role, according to the new 2017 Excellence in Risk Management (PDF) report. Disruptive technologies as defined in the report – for example, telematics, sensors, smart buildings and the Internet of Things – are those that either purposefully displace existing products or that introduce groundbreaking ways of doing business. The report, created by Marsh & McLennan Companies in partnership with Risk & Insurance Management Society (RIMS), suggests that risk managers may be focusing, to their detriment, on current rather than emerging risk.

Companies that integrate such technologies early on are generally able to stay ahead of their competitors, but they also face a significant challenge: while innovation allows companies to keep their business models fresh, it also disrupts an organization, making risks more complex. Risk management professionals need to adopt a proactive approach to these technologies, understand the risks and rewards, and educate executives on how those risks and rewards will impact business strategies, the report suggests.

What are some ways to approach risk in a more proactive manner? Excellence in Risk Management states the following:

  • Engage key stakeholders, from senior leaders to operations employees and even suppliers, in looking at risk and bringing their insights to the decision-making process;
  • Invest in the use of data, analytics and technology;
  • Educate about risk management across the organization;
  • Integrate risk management into strategic planning.

Researchers at MIT have confirmed that the future of the A/E/C industry is now in fact here.

In the proof-of-concept, a vehicle of sorts, moving along a track, carries a robotic arm that utilizes a precision-controlled nozzle to place a variety of materials including spray foam insulation and concrete. ScienceDaily reports:

Structures built with this system could be produced faster and less expensively than traditional construction methods allow, the researchers say. A building could also be completely customized to the needs of a particular site and the desires of its maker. Even the internal structure could be modified in new ways; different materials could be incorporated as the process goes along, and material density could be varied to provide optimum combinations of strength, insulation, or other properties.

Ultimately, the researchers say, this approach could enable the design and construction of new kinds of buildings that would not be feasible with traditional building methods.

The robotic system is described this week in the journal Science Robotics, in a paper by Steven Keating PhD ’16, a mechanical engineering graduate and former research affiliate in the Mediated Matter group at the MIT Media Lab; Julian Leland and Levi Cai, both research assistants in the Mediated Matter group; and Neri Oxman, group director and associate professor of media arts and sciences.

And this is what that future might look like:

Apologies to Mr. Shakespeare, but it seems that right now across the internet, a lot of attention is being paid to how the word “engineer” is defined. Merriam Webster, a fairly respected dictionary, offers three definitions of the word, engineer:

  1. “a designer or builder of engines”
  2. “a person who is trained in or follows as a profession a branch of engineering”
  3. “a person who carries through an enterprise by skillful or artful contrivance.”

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