Canvas, a company that uses machine learning to install drywall at construction sites, emerged from stealth today. Canvas was founded in 2017 and uses a modified JLG lift, robotic arm, and sensors to automate drywall installation.
Once that task is perfected, Canvas plans to expand into areas like painting and spray-on insulation. The company focuses on commercial construction sites larger than 10,000 square feet, and Canvas’ founders say its machines operate faster 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,” Canvas founder Kevin Albert told VentureBeat in a phone interview.
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 customers’ eyes,” Albert 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 only operates in the San Francisco Bay Area, but it is gearing up to move into other cities. These expansion plans come as the U.S. economy continues to falter due to COVID-19 and mismanagement of the pandemic.
An Associated General Contractors of America survey released earlier this week found declines in major construction projects in large cities across the United States during the 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, companies are turning to 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 from investors that include Innovation Endeavors, Obvious Ventures, Brick & Mortar Ventures, and Grit Ventures.