Radical Reads: Bringing AI to Construction

Adithya Sreekumar, Investor

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Photo credit: Ümit Yıldırım on Unsplash

“Now is the time for Canada’s housing industry to embrace the opportunities afforded by deeper digital integration. …Bringing robotics, AI, and advanced manufacturing to housing construction will usher in a new era of sustainable construction. It will create new categories of jobs, accelerate construction timelines, generate significantly less waste and, ultimately, add more buildings much faster to Canada’s housing stock.” –– Ramtin Attar, CEO and Co-founder of Promise Robotics, Housing crisis requires builders to embrace AI and automation, Toronto Star, March 21, 2021

This week we announce our founding investment in Promise Robotics alongside PSP Investments. Headquartered in Toronto, Promise Robotics aims to bring AI and intelligent automation to the construction industry.

As it stands, the construction industry is at a crossroads. Construction lags in productivity, contributing to a shortage of affordable housing (Canada is home to two of the most unaffordable housing markets in the world – Toronto and Vancouver). The industry also faces current and future labour shortages and mounting pressure to address the environmental costs of our built environment. Addressing this myriad of challenges is not a simple task. Today’s construction ecosystem is highly complex, fragmented, and struggles to innovate

The construction ecosystem of the future will be one that is more standardized and takes a more centralized approach. This includes designing product-based construction processes that have a high degree of repetition to reduce uncertainties and waste. A combination of digitalization, AI, and robotics will allow machines to focus on manufacturing just-in-time homes and building components, while humans will specialize in assembling the homes in a safer environment and adding customized elements.

Getting to this future state requires human know-how. Promise Robotics’ co-founders, Ramtin Attar and Reza Nasseri, are pioneers in design, construction, and manufacturing automation. Ramtin is a trained architect who spent the last 12+ years in leadership positions at global software leader Autodesk. Reza is the founder and CEO of Landmark, one of North America’s most successful home builders. Together, they bring thirty years of experience creating industrialization strategies for construction and overseeing one of the most advanced prefab factories in North America, responsible for over 6 million square feet of homes built with panelized construction and site assembly. 

We look forward to supporting the Promise Robotics team as they work to address the industry’s productivity challenges while delivering more affordable and sustainable homes.

5 Noteworthy AI and Deep Tech Articles: week of Mar 22, 2021

1) The Secret Auction That Set Off the Race for AI Supremacy (Wired)
A new book on the key players behind the modern AI era was published this week. Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought AI to Google, Facebook, and the World by New York Times journalist, Cade Metz, looks at the pivotal moments that shaped the adoption of AI by big tech and subsequently paved the way for a wave of innovation across the industry. This article recounts one of the more dramatic chapters of the book, focusing on Geoffrey Hinton’s decision to sell DNNresearch to Google through an email auctioning process in 2013. At this time, DNNresearch was a young Canadian startup spun out of Hinton’s University of Toronto lab with two of his University of Toronto grad students – Alex Krizhevsky and Ilya Sutskever. Metz notes that for Hinton, “finding the right home for his research was ultimately more important to him than commanding the maximum price.” The book itself is a terrific read, and recounts many previously untold stories, including Hinton’s efforts to deliver this seminal, world-changing technology to RIM (now BlackBerry), which repeatedly turned him and his students down, resulting in their decision to approach the Silicon Valley giants instead.

2) The Pastry AI That Learned to Fight Cancer (The New Yorker)
A Japanese AI system called Bakeryscan, “designed to distinguish croissants from bear claws”, is now being used for cancer cell detection. Beyond the delightful narrative, this article gives a succinct overview of computer vision and the unique journey of Hisashi Kambe who founded BRAIN, the company behind this breakthrough. As noted by the author, “these days, it is unusual to develop AI in the way that BRAIN developed BakeryScan. The approach requires a mastery of fine details; it is in spirit artisanal.”

3) Roche Canada Artificial Intelligence Centre of Excellence opens digital competition to tackle ALS (Roche Canada)
The Roche Canada AI CoE launched in November of last year to focus the expertise of all three national AI institutes under the CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy (Mila, Amii, the Vector Institute) on advancing digital transformation in healthcare. The End ALS Challenge will connect the global AI and neuroscience communities to tackle this rare disease. The aim is to provide more information on ALS generally and improve diagnosis and relevant drug discovery. 

4) Music Circles: An interactive data visualization tool that helps users discover new music (Tech Xplore)
How do you find new music in 2021? Researchers at Seoul National University want to make song exploration more effective and entertaining by representing songs as unique vectors and visualizing similarities. The system upends typical music recommendation systems; and, while the songs used in the project are not the latest bangers, this novel visualization tool can help break you out of your playlist rut. 

5) OpenAI’s Sam Altman: Artificial Intelligence will generate enough wealth to pay each adult $13,500 a year (CNBC Make It)
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman proposes a provocative treatise on the enormous wealth and productivity he envisions being generated by AI. The former president of Y Combinator notes, AI “will create phenomenal wealth”, but at the same time the price of labour “will fall towards zero.” He goes on to suggest some novel solutions for the magnitude of the socioeconomic change he envisions. 

–R–

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