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OK Google, get me a coke: AI giants demonstrate soda-fetching robots

OK Google, get me a coke: AI giants demonstrate soda-fetching robots
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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Aug. 16 (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) Google combines the eyes and arms of physical robots with the knowledge and conversational skills of virtual chatbots to help its employees fetch soda and chips from break rooms with ease.

The mechanical waiters, shown in action to reporters last week, embody an artificial intelligence breakthrough that paves the way for multi-purpose robots that are as easy to control as those that perform single, structured tasks like vacuuming or standing guard.

Google robots are not ready for sale. They only perform a few dozen simple actions, and the company has yet to embed them with the “OK, Google” summoning feature that consumers are familiar with.

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While Google says it’s driving development responsibly, adoption could ultimately falter due to concerns like robots becoming surveillance machines or being equipped with chat technology that can provide offensive responses, as Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) and others have experienced in recent years.

microsoft corp (MSFT.O) and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) conduct comparable research on robots.

“It’s going to be a while before we really have a firm grasp on the direct commercial implications,” said Vincent Vanhoucke, senior director of robotics research at Google.

When asked to help clean up a spilled liquid, Google’s robot realizes that grabbing a sponge is a feasible and more sensible response than apologizing for making the mess.

The robots interpret naturally spoken commands, weigh possible actions against their abilities, and plan small steps to fulfill the request.

The chain is made possible by equipping the robots with language technology, which draws its understanding of the world from Wikipedia, social media and other websites. Similar AI underlies chatbots, or virtual assistants, but has never been applied to robots as extensively, Google said.

It revealed the effort in a research paper in April. The integration of more sophisticated voice AI has since boosted the robots’ success at commands from 61% to 74%, according to a company blog post Tuesday.

Everyday Robots, an Alphabet subsidiary, is designing the robots, which for now will be limited to getting snacks for employees.

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

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Policy.

Father Dave

Thomson Reuters

Tech reporter from the San Francisco Bay Area covering Google and the rest of Alphabet Inc. Joined Reuters in 2017 after four years at the Los Angeles Times focusing on the local technology industry.

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