West News Wire: Everyday Robots‘ head of marketing and communications, Denise Gamboa, states that the company will no longer be an independent Alphabet project. A portion of the team and some of the technologies will be included into Google Research’s ongoing robotics projects.
The robotics project is X’s most recent unsuccessful gamble. In the last ten years, X has also developed internet-beaming balloons (Loon) and power-generating kites (Makani) before deciding that they were too unprofitable to continue. Some former X projects, like Waymo (which is developing autonomous vehicles) and Wing (which is testing grocery delivery drones), continue to operate as Alphabet firms, but their commercial prospects are still hampered by technological and regulatory obstacles. Such businesses, like Everyday Robots, used cutting-edge technology that in tests showed tremendous potential but weren’t completely reliable.
Everyday Robots emerged from the rubble of at least eight robotics acquisitions by Google a decade ago. Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin expected machine learning would reshape robotics, and Page in particular wanted to develop a consumer-oriented robot, a former employee involved at the time says, speaking anonymously to discuss internal deliberations. By 2016, they put software entrepreneur Hans Peter Brøndmo in charge of a project then known as Help (and later, for a time, Moxie) to leverage machine learning to develop robots that could handle routine tasks and adapt to varying environments, the source says.
The team set up arm farms and playpens, where a fleet of robots for months would repeat the same task like sorting rubbish. It was a brute-force attempt to generate data to train a machine learning model that could then embody the robots with the know-how needed to use their cameras, arms, wheels, and fingerlike grips to interact with the world around them. The novelty was sparing engineers from the traditional approach in robotics of having to code specific instructions for the machines to follow for every little potential scenario. The idea largely worked for initial tasks. Google had Everyday Robots’ fleet help clean the search giant’s dining halls and check for untidy conference rooms mid-pandemic.
Last year, Everyday Robots demonstrated further progress with Google AI researchers. The project integrated a large language model similar to that underlying ChatGPT into the robotics system, enabling the mechanical helper, for example, to respond to someone saying that they are hungry by fetching a bag of chips for them. But Google and Everyday Robots stressed at the time that a roving butler at one’s beck and call remained far from consumer availability. Variations that seem trivial to humans, like the type of lighting in a room or the shape of the chips bag, could cause malfunctions.