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Do digital twins imply we live in a simulation?
Newsletter cover photo
Shanghai's digital twin recreated with Unreal Engine is remarkable, down to the same giant personified eagles that mill around there
A chiropractic fix to a building in San Francisco, some musings on the future of robotics, and an apparent jetpack vigilante on the loose; let’s get into this week’s links.


The Economist
, an examination on
the rise of robotics
and improvements to walking ability, carrying strength, and general movement for the tech that is expected to revolutionize the construction industry over the next decade. Case studies include Digit, and (of course) Spot. Some takeaways:
The emergence of high-priced jobsite robots is financially congruent with the emergence of drone technology. In both cases, these innovations both started off extremely expensive—
once cost millions of dollars. As mass production grows more feasible, prices inevitably drop.
Agility Robotics' two-legged ostrich robot named Digit makes Spot look like a frugal buy in comparison—Digit’s price tag is currently $250,000 (Spot is a little north of $70k). That slight uptick in bipedal evolution will really cost ya.
Ford’s Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Detroit has two of Boston Dynamics’ robot construction dogs, named Spot and Fluffy respectively. There’s something comforting about two dog homes, and it’s nice that they can always keep each other company.
In an editorial for
, the pandemic has seemingly
transformed restaurant construction forever
. Structural additions like increased number of HVAC ducts for airflow, to-go windows, and outdoor patios for sun and fun (and more airflow)—along with minor additions such as touch-free fixtures in the restroom and touch-free washing stations located throughout (not just the restroom)—have become the new standard for restaurant builders and renovators.
While “pandemic-proofing” is a hot button phrase, the importance of customer reassurance can’t be understated, no matter the likelihood of another worldwide virus. Pandemic-proofed restaurants comfort the modern post-COVID germophobe and provide an actual safety net to keep the “new normal” feel a lot like the old normal.
Spatial strategies and area layout
are also under a permanent transformation
, as the difficulty in keeping 6-foot gaps in restaurants forces a bit of creativity.
Will the dining experience at redesigned restaurants feel strange? We can definitively say: perhaps. But like every Facebook OS overhaul, it’ll probably be weird for a week. Then we won’t be able to remember what it was like before.
In an update on the leaning Millennium Tower in San Francisco,
California Construction News
reports that
engineers have come up with a $100 million restructuring plan
that will fix the tilt.
Since its construction in 2008, the luxury building has sunk 18 inches and tilted 14 inches. There’s no immediate peril, except to residents’ wallets. About 100 condos have fallen $320,000 in average value over the last 3 years.
Construction on the tower will begin in November, which seems far off before one considers that the building has been getting its “lean wit it, rock wit it” on for more than a decade. Two more months can’t hurt.
Austin Business Journal
—as a rebuttal to our discussion of the Greater Austin metropolitan area as the fastest growing MSA in America for construction, Cielo Property Group
has opted
to build
on the 1.6 acres of undeveloped land in downtown Austin they bought 2 years ago. They’re now selling it.
Cielo originally had big plans for a
31-story mixed-use tower
that they’ve since scrapped.
“Cielo still believes this property has enormous potential, but our company and our investors want to explore our options,” said Cielo co-founder Bobby Dillard. In light of many NFL fantasy drafts this week, this reminds us of how we talk when we’re trying to trade AJ Green.
, there could very well be a
pandemic-fueled real estate shift
for corporations toward single-tenant, single-story assets on a massive scale. Many companies have already acted and made the downsize, though many more could see shifting away from multi-story high rises as the sort of “pandemic-proofing” mentality we just looked at in the restaurant biz.
“Bite-sized” office spaces are attractive for corporations looking to save on rental costs without having to go full WFH-mode. Smaller spaces provide less complicated air circulation as well as far less reliance on elevators—in many cases, sub-five-story buildings don’t even have elevators. Imagine: the eradication of elevator small talk!
Construction Dive
, here are
7 bidding mistakes that can throw off a project
. A truncated project timeline is a common strategy and comes with obvious risks. Winning new business is notoriously difficult, which is why a quick plug about Buildr helping our clients ensure repeat business is totally on-topic; have you taken a peek at
our G2 reviews
, here are the
5 AI-based technologies
the construction industry can’t ignore. One example is pharmaceuticals where predictive AI pays dividends when it comes to forecasting medical trial outcomes. Here is where we’d normally make our weekly
Minority Report
-psychics-predicting-things-while-laying-in-pools joke.
The B1M
, enjoy a video on
China’s stunning digital clone of Shanghai
and how they’ve figured out a way to simulate future events with pinpoint accuracy. We’ll look past the likelihood of our existence in a simulation raising by the day and focus on how incredible the Unreal Engine looks. Just a few more years until our
Animal Crossing
islands can look like this.


UFO-no you didn’t
: With UFO sightings recently in the news, we finally got a few sightings that were somewhat identified for once. Multiple airline crews reported that
some guy in a jetpack
was apparently flying around LAX at the altitude of an airplane. Maybe it’s an elaborate ad for GTA V’s next DLC?
Convenience store
: Walmart formally
some of the features of its Amazon grocery murder attempt, Walmart+. For $12.95 a month, you can get free delivery (on orders over $35) and do things like skip the checkout lines in-store by scanning items yourself.
In the cards
: An examination on
the trading card renaissance
fueled by the Mike Trout rookie card that sold for a record $3.9 million last week, which is 4x or more than 65% of MLB players make in a season.
Changing change fees
: If we want to put on our fancy pandemic-silver-linings hats—United, American, Delta, and now Alaska Airlines
all got rid of their change fees
. Time to act reckless in the Chase Travel Portal.
Netflix and zero chill
: Netflix
just went freemium
, offering some of its content to lure the 17 people in America that do not currently have Netflix. No offense to
Boss Baby: Back in Business
, but
seasons 1-3 would have been the power play here.
The entire history of you
: Remember that
Black Mirror
episode where memories could be saved and rewatched? Elon Musk
seems very confident
that this will be non-fiction someday.
Combat evolved
: Amazon makes its first leap into wearables, introducing its Fitbit/Apple Watch competitor,
, complete with an emotion-based-on-vocal-tone tracker and 7-day battery.
Fall guys
: It’s September and you know what that means: fall flavors of stuff. Starbucks’
pumpkin spice and peppermint mocha latte flavors
are hitting Target earlier than ever and we’re excited to completely hide them from MyFitnessPal. Secret calories!
Big movie. Big screen
: 70% of
AMC theaters will open
in a “clean way,” specifically to show
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One last note—this week, we mourn the passing of Chadwick Boseman. Here is
a compilation
of friends, colleagues, and admirers paying homage to the
Black Panther
actor on social media.
We'll see you next time.