Canvas emerges from stealth with AI for drywall installation

Canvas, a company created in January 2017 that uses machine learning to install drywall at construction sites, emerged from stealth today. Canvas uses a modified JLG lift, robotic arm, and sensors to automate drywall installation. Once that task is perfected, the company plans to expand into areas like painting and spray-on insulation. Founders of the company that focuses on commercial construction sites larger than 10,000 square feet say its machines operate quicker and at a higher level of quality than humans working without a robot.

“A lot of our knowledge here comes from working with the U.S. military on surface preparation and finishing and other things like aircraft and ship vehicles and stuff,” Canvas founder Kevin Albert told VentureBeat in a phone interview.

Canvas currently operates in the San Francisco Bay Area but plans to use $19 million raised to date to expand to other cities. Whereas some robotics companies sell or rent hardware, Canvas machines are run by trained workers from the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.

“We are for all intents and purposes a tech-enabled subcontractor in our customer’s eyes,” he said. “We’re very excited about the union, and we think that’s a great way and a great future for bringing this type of machinery into the world.”

Canvas is planning to expand at a time when the U.S. economy continues to falter due to the COVID-19 pandemic and mismanagement. An Associated General Contractors of America survey released earlier this week found declines in major construction projects in major cities across the United States during the COVID-19 global pandemic. The survey also found that a majority of firms are expected to cut jobs or freeze hiring in 2021. Conventional construction companies like Caterpillar and Komatsu have also experienced declines in hardware sales this year, but as fewer bulldozers and excavators are sold, those companies are increasing AI services for construction, mining, and space.

When asked how Canvas plans to succeed in this environment, Albert said “Many months into this crisis, we have been growing, and given the type of work we do, we don’t expect much of an impact to our growth as things continue.”

Canvas has 30 employees and has raised $19 million to date from investors including Innovation Endeavors, Obvious Ventures, Brick & Mortar Ventures, and Grit Ventures.

In other compelling recent robotics news, Walmart stopped using Bossa Nova Robotics to scan store shelves, and Hyundai reportedly wants to buy Boston Dynamics

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