Google parent Alphabet fires robots after slaying 12,000 human jobs earlier

Costing tens of thousands of dollars, these robots were clearing tables and keeping cafeterias clean.
Ameya Paleja
A robot at work in Alphabet cafeteria
A robot at work in Alphabet cafeteria

Everyday Robots 

If human workers have been complaining about robots taking over their jobs, the macroeconomic situation has now put robots out of work.

Over a hundred robots at Google's parent company, Alphabet, have allegedly been fired after the team maintaining them was shut down, Wired reported.

After building the search engine and a suite of services, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin restructured Google to form Alphabet, a company that could dedicate resources and freedom to try out new ideas and turn them into viable products.

The company did much of this work under its X moonshot lab, and some ideas for autonomous driving cars and internet-beaming balloons were also spun out. Last year, Everyday Robots too graduated from the moonshot lab, but its independence was short-lived.

What did Everyday Robots do?

As the name suggests, the project aimed at making robots an everyday feature in homes and offices, something that the likes of Tesla are also aiming for.

Page and Brin were optimistic about this concept and, in the past decade, acquired at least eight robotic companies, Wired said in its report.

Google parent Alphabet fires robots after slaying 12,000 human jobs earlier
Tough economic conditions have ended the Everyday Robots program

Instead of having engineers code for everything that the robots could be capable of, the project relied on machine learning to develop robots that could handle everyday tasks and adapt to environments.

The result was a setup where a fleet of robots repeated the same task for months together to generate data that could train them to use their cameras, arms, wheels, and pincer-like grips to pick things.

The project was quite a success as Alphabet not only spun out the company but also deployed over a hundred of these robots in its own cafeteria, where they cleaned tables, separated trash from recycling, and even opened doors when people arrived.

Working with Google's AI team, these robots also learned to interpret human interaction and could fetch an employee a packet of chips if the human said they were hungry, the report added.

However, the downturn of the economy after the high growth years of the pandemic has not fared well for the project.

Having seen its advertisement revenues dip last year, Alphabet is preparing for worse as it announced the layoffs of 12,000 employees last month.

Members of the Everyday Robots team were also affected by this move, and some were consolidated into existing robotic projects within Google Research. It is not clear what will happen to the robots either.

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