Brick is one of the oldest building materials, dating back to 7000 BC for sun-hardened varieties and 3500 BC for the first kiln-fired blocks.

It’s also among the most versatile, used for modern “abstract menorah” shapes and stunning arches. Even the method of laying bricks—spreading mortar, positioning a brick, and smoothing out excess mortar with a trowel—has remained the same for millennia.Now, one company aims to augment this thousand-year-old tradition through technology.

Australian-based construction-technology firm FBR (formerly Fastbrick Robotics) has developed Hadrian X, a bricklaying robot (named after the wall-building Roman emperor) that can do its work without any human intervention.This technology could provide wide-reaching benefits, including addressing housing shortages around the world.

“There aren’t enough people to build houses fast enough,” says Steve Pierz, chief innovation officer at FBR. “We need to automate the process through mass construction, and this is one of the ways it can be done.” Pierz also sees an opportunity to rebuild after natural disasters strike. “I envision fleets of these robots putting up housing structures quickly in disaster areas,” he says.

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