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  • Drones, virtual reality, big data and beyond. How technology is changing the face of traditional jobs.

    By Sue Casement, 3M Storyteller

    Man explores new home construction with virtual reality headset

    • Imagine building your dream home. You’ve planned all the details from the vaulted ceilings to the concrete accents to the copper sink.

      The layout, the room sizes, the colors. You’ve reviewed the blueprints, and everything is coming together. It’s time for the walk-through, but … it’s just not how you pictured it. It’s hard for many people to look at a blueprint and visualize the final product.

      Enter virtual reality.

    • Kayleen McCabe, a contractor from Denver, Colorado
      Kayleen McCabe, Denver contractor

      “Seeing new technology come into construction is putting a fresh face on it,” says Kayleen McCabe, a contractor from Denver.

      VR is changing the face of home building for homeowners, as well as for builders and architects, who can start construction knowing that the homeowner has seen the outcome already.

      “I used to show homeowners a blueprint of their house,” explains Kayleen. “Now, we use programs where we put the blueprints in, and the homeowner can walk around in their new home virtually before I ever break ground.”

      Simulations can even be set up to view the home in both daytime and nighttime lighting conditions, so homeowners can adjust things like windows, skylights and light fixtures. Builders can also continuously check the jobsite construction against a visual overlay of the schematics and make corrections as needed.

      Virtual reality is also changing the way workers learn. More than ever, hands-on workers can learn new things in a more meaningful way. Virtual training means workers can see how new equipment, processes and personal protective equipment can impact their work. Studies show that the visual nature of the simulation experience engages learners and holds their attention longer than a lecture or video presentation.

      “Virtual reality and gaming technology have broadened the tools available to help create dynamic and engaging training and educational experiences for safety managers and workers,” says Karen Cuta, training manager, 3M Personal Safety Division.

    Virtual reality training

    • Connected safety, drones and 3D printing

      Data and tech can impact many hands-on fields. Technology is impacting how safety is managed. Connected safety gives managers a way to better identify health and safety issues, and it connects personal protective equipment to systems to make sure the equipment is being used properly.


    • Construction worker

      Workers in the construction industry are using drones to collect information and to inspect sites and conditions. Drones can offer a birds-eye view and capture information in real time. Getting this overhead view can help planners survey the site and set up points of entry and exit at the job site. Drones can also do roof inspections by providing video and thermal imaging to check for leaks and moisture.

      And we have all heard about uses of 3D printers revolutionizing industry, but did you know that they are even being used to construct buildings? Companies can now create a 400-square-foot cement composite structure in 24 hours. Builders then add plumbing and electrical wiring to make it move-in ready. 3D-printed office buildings have already been built in China and Dubai. Crews in Dubai printed a 2,700-square-foot structure in 17 days, and then installers and electricians put on the finishing touches. And even if builders aren’t quite ready to try out this revolutionary approach, many are using the technology to print their own wrenches, clamps and wire strippers.

    • Combines harvest grain crops

      Technology ‘til the cows come home

      Beyond construction, other traditional industries are impacted by technology. Teachers have moved from chalkboards and paper to smart boards and online docs. As our cars get safer and smarter, auto repair shops have to jump into the future, too. Automotive technicians are using augmented reality, 3D printing and the latest tools in paint finishing.

      Law enforcement technology is getting a lot of attention for use of body cameras, drones and biometrics, including DNA identification. “Technology is changing the field of criminal justice by allowing more evidence to be entered and shared,” says criminal justice student Lizetthe Moreno. “There is more and more use of photos and cameras, plus infrared scanners.”

      Farmers have long had a reputation as the ultimate innovators and tinkerers. They usually have to fix things on the fly, so many are open to technology that will improve their yield without making their long days longer. Farmers must be more efficient than ever.

      Technology has helped increase farmers’ yields. Plows, tractors and fertilizer revolutionized farming over the past century. Today, farmers’ tools include drones, robotics, GPS and data analytics.

      “There is more data available in agriculture than in almost any other industry,” says Jerry Johnson, CEO at Aglytix, a software company that analyzes software available in agriculture. “Every time a tractor goes across the field, it is capturing data. All this data is what we use to perform analytics.”

    “Tasks that are less vulnerable to automation involve our most human qualities.: creativity, care, teamwork, critical-thinking and imagination.” – The future of work commission

    • Looking back and looking forward

      Over the last 140 years, technology has changed the face of work. Data show that technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed. It has freed people from drudgery and allowed us to be more caring and more creative.

      England and Wales census records show that, in 1901, 200,000 people were employed washing clothes. By 2011, the population nearly doubled, but there were only 35,000 people working in the business of laundering. The technology of plumbing, electricity and in-home washing machines downsized the need for hand-washing and large laundries.

      Then and now, people have used ingenuity to replace their most tedious chores, while opening up possibilities for careers that didn’t exist in the past.

    Learn more about 3M’s latest technologies helping businesses get their work done effectively and efficiently.