AI & VR Transform Infrastructure Safety and Disaster Readiness

by | Nov 10, 2023

University of Central Florida Researchers Introduce Advances in Structural Health Monitoring and Disaster Preparedness

Scientists at the University of Central Florida have recently unveiled four revolutionary innovations that utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) to transform structural health monitoring and enhance disaster preparedness. These cutting-edge technologies have the potential to prevent tragedies, improve emergency management, and strengthen community resilience.

Traditionally, visual inspections conducted on-site have been the standard method for evaluating the structural integrity of buildings, bridges, and other civil structures. However, these inspections can be time-consuming, costly, and limited in scope. To overcome these challenges, Necati Catbas and his team have developed a range of innovative technologies that complement traditional monitoring methods.

One of their inventions utilizes computer vision with cameras positioned on and around structures to gather image and location data. This technology extracts valuable information about structural changes, weaknesses, and immediate damages without requiring physical access to the structures. By integrating AI into the inspection process, Catbas and his team have created a framework that combines human-centric AI with mixed reality. This framework accelerates inspections, improves accuracy, and enables inspectors to interact with AI to adjust defect and detection boundaries over time, enhancing the AI’s accuracy.

The integration of VR and augmented reality (AR) also plays a crucial role in their research. An immersive visualization system allows experts to virtually assess disaster areas and analyze structures through “virtual visits.” Equipped with cameras, sensors, robots, drones, LiDAR scanners, and infrared thermography cameras, the visualization system provides vital damage detection and load-carrying information. This system enables remote analysis, reducing the need for experts to physically travel to disaster sites and facilitating faster response times.

One of the most remarkable inventions in this field is the use of generative adversarial networks (GANs). By leveraging AI, Catbas and his team have developed a GAN architecture capable of predicting damage and minimizing the need for extensive data collection from numerous structures. This technology generates large, accurate synthetic data samples to train damage diagnostic systems, significantly streamlining the monitoring process.

These inventions can be used independently or in combination, offering a comprehensive solution for structural health monitoring. The team envisions a future where a “digital twin” of infrastructure assets is created, similar to how NASA replicates spacecraft components. This digital twin allows for simultaneous data collection and predictive analysis of various structural scenarios, paving the way for proactive maintenance and risk mitigation.

Beyond structural health monitoring, the researchers at the University of Central Florida are also dedicated to improving emergency management and community resilience. Their framework provides valuable insights for disaster preparedness, resource allocation, and evacuation planning. By integrating AI, VR, and AR technologies, decision-makers are empowered to make informed choices during crises, ultimately saving lives and minimizing damage.

Looking ahead, the team’s ambitious research plans include developing a framework for smart and resilient communities capable of withstanding extreme events. By leveraging AI, VR, and the digital twin concept, this framework aims to enhance community resilience by providing invaluable insights for disaster preparedness, resource allocation, and evacuation planning.

The potential of these groundbreaking technologies to transform the field of structural health monitoring and disaster preparedness cannot be overstated. Through the integration of AI, VR, and the collective intelligence framework, the University of Central Florida’s research team is paving the way for safer, more resilient communities. With their innovative inventions, they are revolutionizing the way we monitor structures, predict damage, and respond to emergencies. These advancements have the potential to prevent tragedies, improve emergency management, and ultimately save lives.