Alphabet, and Google before it, has a long history of exploring robots. The latest effort is in the form of a new company called Intrinsic that is entirely focused on making software tools for training industrial robotics.

Intrinsic wants to “unlock the creative and economic potential of industrial robotics for millions more businesses, entrepreneurs, and developers.” This effort won’t lead to personal home robots or other sci-fi visions, but rather focus on robotics in factories for manufacturing.

We’re developing software tools designed to make industrial robots (which are used to make everything from solar panels to cars) easier to use, less costly, and more flexible, so that more people can use them to make new products, businesses and services.

At that, the Alphabet company is not looking at making actual hardware — unlike Boston Dynamics — and will use existing robots. Rather, it’s focusing on its strengths in artificial intelligence and machine learning. The team has been working on this technology for over five years within the X Moonshot Factory, and is now ready to be an independent division led by Wendy Tan-White. Specifically, Intrinsic wants to address how training robots for tasks is highly “manual and bespoke.”

Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich

Specialist programmers can spend hundreds of hours hard coding robots to perform specific jobs, like welding two pieces of metal, or gluing together an electronics case. And many dexterous and delicate tasks, like inserting plugs or moving cords, remain unfeasible for robots because they lack the sensors or software needed to understand their physical surroundings.

A better solution is having robots learn and “automatically make adjustments as they’re completing tasks.” This will be made possible with: automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation, and force control.

If successful, Intrinsic software could “radically reduce the time, cost, and complexity required to use industrial robots.” 

We are currently looking for partners in the automotive, electronics, and health care industries who are already using industrial robotics and want to learn together.

From the description provided today, it seems that Intrinsic is not related to X’s “Everyday Robots” project that was detailed in 2019 and seemed like it would produce hardware that would more closely interact with people day-to-day. Both efforts are focused on teaching machines rather than programming them.

Intrinsic joins other standalone Alphabet companies like Waymo, Verily, and Wing.

Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich

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