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Nvidia to help Komatsu automate construction machinery

AI and drones will monitor building progress in real time

Nvidia President and CEO Jensen Huang has also teamed up with Toyota and Fanuc in Japan.

TOKYO -- U.S. chipmaker Nvidia is teaming with Japan's Komatsu to bring artificial intelligence to construction machinery, building partnerships in a variety of industries to establish a foundation for the AI era.

"We predict that construction sites will be unmanned in the future," said Chikashi Shike, president of Komatsu's smart construction promotion division, at the announcement Wednesday. 

Komatsu will use image data processed by Nvidia's AI chips to monitor work sites in real time and quickly update construction plans according to the progress made. Drones will fly over large projects to capture the images via cameras equipped with the chips. Komatsu also seeks to develop autonomous construction machinery and other labor-saving services.

Nvidia, known for video game image processors, entered the AI game, especially automated driving, a few years ago. Nvidia has also cut development costs for companies by providing CUDA, software designed to optimize chip performance. Currently, 650,000 engineers use Nvidia's development environment worldwide.

Nvidia is applying its mainstay graphic processing chips, which can simultaneously process a large amount of data in parallel, to AI. Advances in autonomous driving technology have brought the company into the limelight as a leader in the field. Nvidia is partnering with more than 200 manufacturers, including Toyota Motor, Audi, Tesla and robotics maker Fanuc.

Yet it is unclear when Nvidia's efforts in automobiles and other industries will translate into stronger earnings as competition in the AI field intensifies. Games still account for 60% of Nvidia's sales, while autos make up just 5%. Toyota recently said it will also procure chips from Japan's Renesas Electronics to function as the vehicle's brain.

Nvidia's share price has sextupled over the last two years, boosting its market capitalization to about $114 billion. Sales for the year ended January totaled $6.9 billion, and net profit was $1.6 billion. The company employs about 11,000 people.

(Nikkei)

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