A startup company called Everyday Robots has unveiled a new robot that it says can perform a range of tasks including wiping tables and windows as well as arrange chairs.
Everyday Robots started out as a project at Alphabet’s Moonshot Factory – also known as X, formerly Google X – but has now started to strike out on its own, setting up its own website as well.
Writing on X’s blog, Hans Peter Brøndmo, chief robot officer, says: “We are now operating a fleet of more than 100 robot prototypes that are autonomously performing a range of useful tasks around our offices. The same robot that sorts trash can now be equipped with a squeegee to wipe tables and use the same gripper that grasps cups can learn to open doors.”
He adds: “Over the last few years, we’ve been building an integrated hardware and software system that is designed for learning — including transferring learning from the virtual world to the real world. Our robots are equipped with a mix of different cameras and sensors to take in the world around them.
“Using a combination of machine learning techniques like reinforcement learning, collaborative learning, and learning from demonstration, the robots have steadily gained a better understanding of the world around them and become more skilled at doing everyday tasks.”
The robot is now applying algorithms and learnings from one task, like door opening, to another task like chair pushing. This means the same robot that sorts trash can be equipped with a squeegee to wipe tables and use the same gripper that grasps cups to open doors.
The fleet of more than 100 robot prototypes that are now autonomously performing useful tasks around X offices are also operating in a handful of Bay Area cafes.
Astro Teller, X’s captain of moonshots, says: “After six years of incubating their technology at X, the Everyday Robots team is moving out of the lab.
“The team has made exciting technical progress towards their moonshot of creating a general-purpose learning robot, but they still have core technical work to do and some “can this really work?” questions to explore. We’re excited about their progress and look forward to cheering them on.”
Everyday Robots says it does not want to become just “another bet”.
In a statement, the company says: “We’ve made exciting technical progress towards our moonshot; however, there is still core technical work to do. The team at X is confident that we’re far enough along in our journey to operate as an independent team outside of X.
“We’re getting to be a sizable team with our own culture and rhythms; at a certain point it doesn’t make sense to keep us at X given the small size of most teams at X.”
This is the second robotics announcement from X this year. In July 2021, X introduced Intrinsic, a new Alphabet company that is 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.
The website comments include: “Thanks to advances in computer vision and machine learning, it is also now possible for industrial robots to perceive and respond to their surroundings and learn how to do more dexterous tasks.”
Intrinsic has also tested its software in real-world settings. For example, the team worked with Gramazio Kohler Research at ETH Zurich to assemble wooden pods for one of their latest architectural projects.
Both Everyday Robots and Intrinsic include many people from the robotics companies acquired by Google in 2013, which moved to X in 2015 after the formation of Alphabet.