Japanese industrial giant Mitsubishi Electric announced an agreement today to expand its collaboration with Tokyo-based AI startup HACARUS. As part of the deal, Mitsubishi will take an equity position in the young company.
The deepening ties aim to accelerate development of AI-powered visual inspection systems for factory automation. These technologies promise to automate tedious quality control processes traditionally performed manually.
"The automation of production lines is accelerating due to labor shortages, but many visual inspections are still performed by humans," said Toshie Takeuchi, Group President of Mitsubishi Electric’s Factory Automation Systems Group, in a statement. "Through this collaboration, we look forward to strengthening our response to customer needs."
HACARUS has pioneered computer vision solutions tailored to manufacturing challenges since its founding in 2014. Its flagship HACARUS Check offering detects subtle defects invisible to the human eye. It is designed for complex visual inspections, including 360-degree views. What sets HACARUS apart is its ability to tailor AI solutions to specific operational needs, ensuring a seamless integration into existing manufacturing processes.
The strategic partnership provides HACARUS with access to Mitsubishi's formidable sales channel. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi gains a window into cutting-edge AI techniques to enhance its portfolio of next-gen automation products.
A key motivation behind the alliance is Japan's rapidly aging workforce. Over 28% of the country's population is currently over 65, curtailing the manufacturing sector's skilled talent pipeline.
Integrating AI visual inspection aims to ease reliance on scarce human capital while upholding rigorous quality standards.
Mitsubishi's existing MELSOFT VIXIO software detects anomalies using proprietary AI algorithms. Under the new collaboration, HACARUS's computer vision expertise will augment these capabilities.
The enhanced offering will better identify scratches, uneven colors, and other subtle defects. And it will require less specialization to implement compared to alternatives.
The HACARUS investment represents the latest in a series of AI-focused deals by Mitsubishi Electric. As the company doubles down on intelligent technology, it continues scoping out talent and innovation abroad in hotspots like Silicon Valley.
Further integration of AI throughout its products lies at the core of Mitsubishi's long-term growth strategy. It sees the technology as instrumental to advancing automation, efficiency, and quality across industrial infrastructure.
If successful, the collaboration to automate visual inspection could scale across the company's extensive customer base. That hints at a future where AI assumes roles currently occupied by human vision and scrutiny on factory floors worldwide.