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Computer vision, which deals with how computers can understand objects in images, is a rapidly growing subfield of AI. According to a 2021 IDG survey, 37% of organizations say that they have definitive plans to implement computer vision, while 44% say that they’re investigating the technology. The computer vision market could grow from $10.9 billion in 2019 to $17.4 billion by 2024 if the current trend continues, as external investments in computer vision startups surpasses $3.5 billion.
Manufacturing companies have shown a particular interest in computer vision for its ability to detect anomalies during production. Respondents to the IDG survey said that they planned to adopt computer vision to minimize tedious, expensive, or dangerous work. McKinsey found that AI-powered quality inspection can increase productivity by up to 50% and defect detection rates by up to 90% compared with manual inspection.
An expanding number of startups offer computer vision products targeted at manufacturing, including Landing AI, Cogniac, and Roboflow.
Overview, one of the newer players, is designing a platform to help customers identify manufacturing defects on the production line. Overview today announced that it raised $10 million in a series A funding round led by Blumberg Capital with participation from GV, Momenta, and Bain Capital, bringing its total raised to nearly $20 million.
Detecting defects with AI
When production issues occur, manufacturers have to deal not only with delays but wasted material and inspection labor. It’s estimated that defects cost manufacturers billions of dollars every year, and a Vanson Bourne study found that 23% of unplanned downtime in manufacturing is the result of error.
Overview, which was founded in 2018 by a group of former Tesla engineers, offers a product that interfaces with existing factory lines, pairing software with off-the-shelf cameras to track defects. While overseeing the development of Tesla’s Gigafactory in Reno, Nevada, Overview cofounders Chris Van Dyke and Austin Appel say that they found that the data they needed to build products and processes was “often difficult to come by.” The two launched Overview in an attempt to solve the challenge and bring AI inspection systems to any factory.
“Global competition, supply chain issues, and inflation pressures are challenging large and small manufacturers across all industries to investigate new technology solutions,” CEO and cofounder Chris Van Dyke said in a press release. “Investing in improving the equally complex and delicate manufacturing ecosystem couldn’t come at a better time and we want to make it easier for manufacturing operators and engineers to access really powerful technology that will help them make fewer mistakes, mitigate financial loss, and ultimately, know that what they deliver to [their] end customer[s] meets or exceeds the quality specifications they expect.”
Overview’s technology combines cameras, data, and algorithms using what Van Dyke refers to as “stations.” Stations can be controlled manually by operators or run automatically, letting users inspect products at higher speeds or catalog shipments for damage disputes.
Overview-controlled cameras can be prompted to automatically inspect a product from a trigger or time interval, or — in the case of video events — continuously capture. Users can build rules to trigger alerts and communications or request that Overview’s engineers create or update algorithms. Overview also saves data from the processes that it monitors, allowing users to determine the root cause of a defect with data post-processing.
Computer vision growth
While computer vision has the potential to cut down on manufacturing errors (assuming it doesn’t suffer from major bias), companies have been slow to embrace the technology. Even with the advent of AI-powered inspection products from tech giants like Google, computer vision hasn’t passed the “awareness phase,” with the aforementioned IDG survey finding that only 10% of organizations are using computer vision as of July 2021.
“We were not surprised to find computer vision squarely in the awareness phase. It’s an extremely complex emerging technology that requires a significant investment, with an average return of two to three years and real-world examples just starting to materialize to prove the business case,” Amol Ajgaonkar, chief architect of intelligent edge at Insight, who commissioned the IDG survey, said in a statement. Among others, manufacturers cite infrastructure and operability, data quality, and transparency as the top barriers to deploying computer vision throughout their organizations.
But Blumberg’s Stanton Green believes that Overview’s architecture can abstract away the data science legwork in a way that might appeal to manufacturing customers who were previously wary of adopting the technology.
“Just as Tesla created an entirely new electric vehicle industry using automation and advanced AI, we see parallels for revolutionizing manufacturing across all industries with software-led inspection systems. Overview has the potential to be the end-to-end platform that automates quality control workflow for any factory,” Green said in a statement.
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