THERESA AREVALO WAS in high school when she first tried finishing drywall at her brother’s construction company. “It’s a fine art,” she says of mudding—applying and smoothing drywall. “Like frosting a cake, you have to give the illusion that the wall is flat.”
Fast-forward a few decades: Arevalo now works at Canvas, a company that’s built a robot using artificial intelligence that’s capable of drywalling with almost as much artistry as a skilled human worker.
The robot has been deployed, under Arevalo’s supervision, at several construction sites in recent months, including the new Harvey Milk Terminal at San Francisco International Airport and an office building connected to the Chase Center arena in San Francisco.
About the size of a kitchen stove, the four-wheeled robot navigates an unfinished building carrying laser scanners and a robotic arm fitted to a vertical platform. When placed in a room, the robot scans the unfinished walls using lidar, then gets to work smoothing the surface before applying a near perfect layer of drywall compound; sensors help it steer clear of human workers.