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Alphabet launches robotics software company Intrinsic from X moonshot lab

The venture from Google's parent company aims to make industrial robots cheaper and easier to use.

Intrinsic's motion planning software being used to help build an architectural installation.
Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich

Alphabet on Friday said it's launching a new robotics software company aimed at making industrial robots cheaper and easier to use.

The new venture, called Intrinsic, is being spun out of X, the moonshot lab from Google's parent company that's developed self-driving cars and delivery drones. 

The software is designed to give automation robots added flexibility so they'll become more popular for smaller businesses to use. For example, the company said it used its software to train a robot in two hours to perform a USB connection task that would've otherwise taken hundreds of hours to program. It also trained multiple robot arms to assemble architectural installations and build furniture. 

"None of this is realistic or affordable to automate today," Wendy Tan-White, Intrinsic's chief executive, wrote in a blog post. "And there are millions of other examples like this in businesses around the world."

The announcement comes as Silicon Valley companies grapple with automation and the future of work, using software and technology to upend businesses across the economy. Alphabet said its software will help the manufacturing industry keep up with demand.

Alphabet wouldn't make Tan-White or other executives available for interviews.

The company said Intrinsic had been in development for 5 1/2 years at X. The team was built out of several robotics companies Google acquired in 2013, when the company made its first major push into that field. Intrinsic said it's now looking for business partners in the automotive, electronics and health care industries that are already using industrial robots.

Though some projects at X, like the driverless-car company Waymo and the life-sciences company Verily, have seen success, other ventures have failed. Loon, an ambitious effort to build stratospheric balloons to beam internet connections to remote areas, announced in January that it was shutting down.