OK Google, Get Me a Coke: AI Giant Demos Soda-Fetching Robot

OK Google, Get Me a Coke: AI Giant Demos Soda-Fetching Robot
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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Aug 16 (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL.O) Google is combining the eyes and arms of physical robots with the knowledge and conversational skills of virtual chatbots to help its employees easily fetch soda and chips from the breakroom.

The mechanical waiter, shown in action to reporters last week, embodies an artificial intelligence advance that makes it easier to control for versatile robots that perform single, structured tasks such as vacuuming or standing guard.

Google is not ready to sell robots. They perform only a few dozen simple actions, and the company hasn’t yet embedded the “OK, Google” summon feature familiar to consumers.

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While Google says it’s developing responsibly, the adoption could ultimately put to rest concerns about robots becoming surveillance machines or equipped with chat technology that could backfire, as Meta Platform Inc. (META.O) And others have experience in recent years.

Microsoft Corporation (MSFT.O) and Inc. (AMZN.O) Researching robots is comparable.

“It’s going to take some time before we can really get a firm grasp on the direct commercial impact,” said Vincent Vanhauke, Google’s senior director of robotics research.

When asked to help clean up a spill, Google’s robot recognizes that grabbing a sponge is an effective and more sensitive response than apologizing for making a mess.

Robots naturally interpret spoken commands, weigh possible actions against their capabilities, and plan small steps to achieve the query.

This chain is made possible by linking robots with language technology that makes sense of the world from Wikipedia, social media and other webpages. Similar AI underlies chatbots, or virtual assistants, but hasn’t been applied so broadly to robots before, Google said.

It unveiled the effort in a research paper in April. According to a blog post from the company on Tuesday, incorporating more sophisticated language AI increased the robots’ success on command from 61% to 74%.

Fellow Alphabet subsidiary Everyday Robot designs the robots, which for now will be limited to grabbing snacks for employees.

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Reporting by Paresh Dave; Edited by Kenneth Lee and Richard Chang

Our values: Thomson Reuters Trust Policy.

Paresh Dave

Thomson Reuters

San Francisco Bay Area-based tech reporter Google and the rest of Alphabet Inc. Cover joined Reuters in 2017 after four years focusing on the local tech industry at the Los Angeles Times.

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