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Friday, Feb 23, 2024

Not even Google's cleaning robots are safe from the tech industry's layoffs and cost-cutting efforts

Not even Google's cleaning robots are safe from the tech industry's layoffs and cost-cutting efforts

Google is shutting down Everyday Robots, a subsidiary that made robots that could perform simple tasks like cleaning the company's campus.

The recent string of layoffs hitting the tech industry is now stretching beyond just humans — it's also impacting robots.

Google is reportedly shutting down a company that created and trained dozens of robots that performed simple tasks at the company's headquarters. Everyday Robots — which was formed within X, the "moonshot program" of Google's parent company Alphabet — is being shuttered as a cost-cutting measure, according to Wired.

The company developed over 100 robots trained to perform tasks like cleaning cafeteria tables and separating trash and recyclables. The robots were also programmed to open doors and replace missing chairs in offices through a variety of teaching techniques, Chief Robot Officer Hans Peter Brandom wrote in a November 2021 update.

Everyday Robots' original goal was to create a "general purpose" robot that can perform a wide variety of tasks in many different environments, according to the X website. The robots use cameras and machine learning to evaluate their environment, and position their arm to clean and perform simple tasks.

According to Wired's conversations with ex-Everyday Robots employees, the decision to shut down Everyday Robots was made as part of the wider cost-cutting initiatives Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced last month, including laying off 12,000 employees.

Everyday Robots and Google did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment, however a spokesperson told Wired it will no longer be a separate project within Alphabet, but an unspecified amount of staff and technology will be retained within Google's existing robotics programs.

The robots also had language models like the technology behind ChatGPT incorporated into its abilities so it could understand verbal commands, and perform tasks like taking snack requests for hungry employees or understanding when someone asked for help cleaning a spill.


Many of Everyday Robots' over 200 staff members were unsure if their primary goal was developing new technology or creating a robot that would be commercialized for consumers, per Wired.

"It's unfortunate to see it shut down," one former employee told Wired. "We are starting to see that robots can do meaningful work in a general way. I don't think it's a sign of a lack of progress. With the right focus, in five years you could have a meaningful product in the market."

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