US chipmaker Nvidia is to team up with Komatsu, Japan’s largest maker of construction machinery, to create a generation of products with embedded artificial intelligence (AI) as a step toward unmanned equipment.
Chikashi Shike, president of Komatsu’s smart construction promotion division, said at the announcement on Wednesday: "We predict that construction sites will be unmanned in the future."
On Tuesday, Nvidia chief executive Jensen Huang commented: "Future machines will perceive their surroundings and be continuously alert, helping operators work more efficiently and safely."
Nvidia will supply AI chips that allow Komatsu machinery to "see" the site around them, and react automatically to developments as they take place. They will be complemented by drones equipped with similar graphics processors.
Chikashi Shike, left, celebrating Komatsu’s agreement with Skycatch in 2015 (Skycatch)
The alliance is the latest in a number of deals between technology companies as they prepare for the arrival of AI in the worlds of transport and construction.
Nvidia, which is best known for making graphics cards for computer games, has expanded into AI in recent years, with a particular emphasis on autonomous vehicles. In May it announced a deal to install its Nvidia Drive PX chip in Toyota’s self-driving cars; other deals have been done with BMW, Audi and Tesla.
Meanwhile, Komatsu has long been developing its AI-enabled machinery. Back in 2015 it teamed up with Skycatch, the San Francisco-based maker of drone imaging software, to develop ways of integrating drone images into its smart machinery.
Image: Komatsu is the second largest construction equipment makes after Caterpillar (Komatsu)