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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A pioneering AI scientist and entrepreneur argues that technology needs to be specialized to work effectively in manufacturing.

Why it matters: AI has been slower to make a difference in many forms of business because it still takes expertise and investment to use it effectively. For now, that means models will need to be trained individually to be effective on the factory floor.

What's happening: Landing AI, a company started by former Google and Baidu AI pioneer Andrew Ng, last month launched LandingLens, a visual inspection platform for manufacturers.

  • Visual inspection — which usually involves human workers checking a product for defects as it's made — is laborious and repetitive, which should make it a perfect use case for AI in manufacturing.
  • But visual inspection demonstrates what Ng calls the "customization problem" of AI in manufacturing. "Every factory and every unique product needs its own trained AI model to check for defects."

How it works: LandingLens works as a visual interface through which companies can train the model to understand the inspection needs of individual products.

  • Manufacturers take pictures of a successfully finished product, as well as images of various defects. Once human inspectors have created labels for defects, the model can run experiments that will over time refine its ability to identify even minor defects.

The catch: LandingLens points to both the benefits and limitations of AI at its current level of development. Manufacturers can get real value out of AI platforms, but it requires investment in time, as well as skills many executives don't have.

  • While 84% of C-suite executives believe that they must leverage AI to achieve their growth objectives, according to a survey last year, 76% report they don't really know how to do it.
"AI has transformed consumer software, but if you look at the impact it has had on the broader economy, then candidly we are just beginning the path of transformation."
— Andrew Ng, Landing AI

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Dec 3, 2020 - Economy & Business

The silver lining in 2020's weak Black Friday sales

Data: Placer.ai; Chart: Axios Visuals

Black Friday was disappointing for retailers this year, as spending numbers underwhelmed and foot traffic declined dramatically, according to data from analytics firm Placer.ai.

By the numbers: Customer visits were down, on average, more than 26% compared to Black Friday 2019 at the six retailers Placer tracked.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress sprints to meet crush of deadlines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congressional leaders have been pushing off vital action for months — and a lot of it will catch up with them in December, which begins Wednesday.

Driving the news: Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday. There are also consequential deadlines related to the debt limit, President Biden's agenda and annual actions like voting on the National Defense Authorization Act.

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