Alphabet tackles industrial robot software market

Intrinsic will teach industrial robots to perform complex tasks

Google parent company Alphabet has launched a new company called Intrinsic that aims to make industrial robots easier to program. 

Originally a project within Google's X research group, Intrinsic has graduated as an independent company within Alphabet. That means it will leave X's rapid prototyping environment and seek development partners. 

CEO Wendy Tan-White explained that conventional industrial robots are difficult to program, often taking hundreds of hours of manual programming to perfect repetitive tasks. Some tasks, such as sanding surfaces of different shapes and sizes or plugging in electrical cords, are beyond robots' reach because they require a subtle awareness of environments and surfaces. 

Intrinsic wants robots to perform tasks like these. It has also been working on programming multiple robots to work together on complex tasks. 

Intrinsic uses various techniques, including artificial intelligence (AI), to make these programming tasks easier by 'teaching' robots how to perform them. The company has also experimented with deep learning, which uses more layers in a neural network to refine machine learning outcomes, and reinforcement learning, which uses feedback on robot performance to improve its attempts at a task over time. 

Other algorithms in its toolbox include automated perception and motion planning, and simulation and force control so robots can adjust how much pressure they apply. 

The company wants robots to apply their training to similar tasks without engineers reprogramming them again from scratch. It also hopes that by becoming aware of their surroundings, they will adapt to changing environments rather than restricting themselves to specific fixed conditions. 

The idea is to make robots more affordable and usable, opening the technology to more businesses. This will also allow companies to make products closer to where they're used, making supply chains more efficient, Tan-White said. 

The Intrinsic team spent five years developing the technology inside the X building. 

Google has dabbled in robotics before, acquiring Boston Dynamics in 2013 before folding it into its Replicant robotics division after reorganizing into Alphabet in 2015. Internal rifts and concerns over brand optics compelled it to sell the company to Softbank in 2017. 

Related Resource

IT Pro 20/20: Understanding our complicated relationship with AI

The 16th issue of IT Pro 20/20 looks at the very human problems associated with artificial intelligence

IT Pro 20/20: Understanding our complicated relationship with AIDOWNLOAD NOW

Google acquired other robotics companies in 2013, including Redwood Robotics, which focused on making robotic arms that are simple to program, and robotic camera systems maker Bot & Dolly. 

Intrinsic is the latest initiative to graduate from X, following in the footsteps of autonomous driving startup Waymo and drone delivery company Wing. 

Other projects still in development within Google X include the Everyday Robot program, a separate robotics program researching whether robots can operate in changeable environments. Its team developed a robot that could sort recycling waste, which is a challenging task given the unpredictable contents of recycling bins. 

Featured Resources

Shining light on new 'cool' cloud technologies and their drawbacks

IONOS Cloud Up! Summit, Cloud Technology Session with Russell Barley

Watch now

Build mobile and web apps faster

Three proven tips to accelerate modern app development

Free download

Reduce the carbon footprint of IT operations up to 88%

A carbon reduction opportunity

Free Download

Comparing serverless and server-based technologies

Determining the total cost of ownership

Free download

Recommended

BT launches UK’s first telecoms robotics test lab
Network & Internet

BT launches UK’s first telecoms robotics test lab

9 Nov 2021
Graylog launches new cyber security solution to address legacy issues
cyber security

Graylog launches new cyber security solution to address legacy issues

21 Oct 2021
MOV.AI’s robotics engine platform aids AMR production
automation

MOV.AI’s robotics engine platform aids AMR production

19 Oct 2021
Build trustworthy AI with MLOps
Whitepaper

Build trustworthy AI with MLOps

15 Oct 2021

Most Popular

What should you really be asking about your remote access software?
Sponsored

What should you really be asking about your remote access software?

17 Nov 2021
What are the pros and cons of AI?
machine learning

What are the pros and cons of AI?

30 Nov 2021
How to move Microsoft's Windows 11 from a hard drive to an SSD
Microsoft Windows

How to move Microsoft's Windows 11 from a hard drive to an SSD

24 Nov 2021