Alphabet launches company to make industrial robots more adaptable

Intrinsic, Alphabet's latest "moonshot," is a robotics software and AI company aiming to work with partners in the automotive, electronics and health care industries

Alphabet's X, its R&D lab, announced Friday morning that its next big bet is in industrial robotics. Its new early-stage company Intrinsic is a robotics software and AI company that wants to help robots sense and learn, thereby making them more adaptable to different environments. 

"The surprisingly manual and bespoke process of teaching robots how to do things, which hasn't changed much over the last few decades, is currently a cap on their potential to help more businesses," Wendy Tan-White, Intrinsic's CEO, wrote in a blog post. "Specialist programmers can spend hundreds of hours hard coding robots to perform specific jobs, like welding two pieces of metal, or gluing together an electronics case. And many dexterous and delicate tasks, like inserting plugs or moving cords, remain unfeasible for robots because they lack the sensors or software needed to understand their physical surroundings."

After developing its technology for five and-a-half years at X, Intrinsic is launching as an independent Alphabet company to further build and validate its product. The company is currently looking for partners in the automotive, electronics and health care industries that are already using industrial robotics.

So far, Tan-White wrote, the company has been testing software that uses techniques like automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation and force control.

Tan-White joined X two and-a-half years ago after serving as a partner at the capital growth fund BGF Ventures and as a general partner at Entrepreneur First, a global technology talent investor in AI, robotics and biotech. Early in her career, she co-founded and was CEO of Moonfruit, the world's first SAAS website builder platform. She also helped launch Zopa.com,

the first European peer-to-peer lending site, and Egg.com, the UK's first internet bank. 

Intrinsic's also includes leading roboticists and AI experts, such as CTO Torsten Kroeger, Engelberger Award winner Martin Haegele, robotics innovator Rainer Bischoff, and reinforcement learning expert Stefan Schaal.

Other companies that have spun out of Alphabet's X lab (which was the Google X lab, prior to Alphabet's formation) include the autonomous car company Waymo and Verily Life Sciences.

Prior and related coverage: