Google’s New Robot Learned to Take Orders by Scraping the Web

Late last week, Google research scientist Fei Xia sat in the center of a bright, open-plan kitchen and typed a command into a laptop connected to a one-armed, wheeled robot resembling a large floor lamp. “I’m hungry,” he wrote. The robot promptly zoomed over to a nearby countertop, gingerly picked up a bag of multigrain chips with a large plastic pincer, and wheeled over to Xia to offer up a snack.

The most impressive thing about that demonstration, held in Google’s robotics lab in Mountain View, California, was that no human coder had programmed the robot to understand what to do in response to Xia’s command. Its control software had

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