A former employee of Google and Baidu will be working with China’s Foxconn Technology to bring Artificial Intelligence to factories.
Computer scientist Andrew Ng, who has since left the two tech giants and built startup Landing.ai, said in December last year that he and Foxconn—the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer company, assembling Dell computers and some Apple products–will be the company’s first strategic partner.
Ng, currently a professor at Stanford University, worked at Google’s Brain Deep Learning Project (which he founded and led) and Baidu as Chief Scientist. He also co-founded online education company Coursera, a company that offers free online courses. He is now focused on Landing.ai, which aims to help manufacturers make use of AI technology.
He told the South China Morning Post (SCMP): “Landing.ai will help transform companies for the AI era. We are starting with the manufacturing industry. For the whole world to experience the benefits of AI, it must pervade many industries, not just the IT industry.”
Ng has not yet elaborated on the partnership but revealed that Landing.ai has been working with Foxconn since July 2017.
Ng added: “Manufacturing touches nearly every part of our society by shaping our physical environment. It is through manufacturing that human creativity goes beyond pixels on a display to becoming physical objects…By bringing AI to manufacturing, we will deliver a digital transformation to the physical world.”
One of the issues being raised in projects like this is unemployment. He said he understands that his firm’s technology is likely to displace factory workers but that Landing.ai is already working on how to train workers for higher-skilled, higher paying factory work involving computers.
Ng told reported that he understands this, saying that AI technology might, indeed displace factory workers. However, he said that while the company is working on AI, it is also working to train the workers for higher-skilled computer tasks.
“I would love to help displaced workers gain the skills they need to succeed,” Ng said.
A report by the SCMP also quoted Foxconn chair Terry Gou as saying that workers in the assembly line will “definitely disappear in the coming 20 years”
“But I am not concerned about unemployment, and our workers will become smarter and further upgrade their skills to have good interactions with machines,” he explained. “I think it is trend to combine internet and manufacturing. And the two will be more and more inseparable.”
A report by Wired reported Ng as saying that Landing.ai’s first clients will be in China and Japan. He, however, did not say what exactly they’re planning to work on. He also said that Landing.ai has already been approached by investors, but haven’t accepted outside capital yet.
“AI can make a society where everything is much better and humans are freed from mental drudgery,” he said.