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Forbidden sign over a robot's hand solving a Rubik's Cube

The independent research lab OpenAI wowed technology watchers in 2019 with a robotic hand that solved Rubik’s Cube. Now it has disbanded the team that built it.

What’s new: OpenAI cofounder Wojciech Zaremba revealed that OpenAI shuttered its robotics program last October.

Robo retrenchment: In a podcast produced by Weights & Biases, a maker of AI development tools, Zaremba said a lack of data was holding back OpenAI’s progress in robotics. The company’s broad goal is to develop artificial general intelligence, and it believes it can make more progress by focusing on approaches such as reinforcement learning with human feedback, a representative told VentureBeat.

Behind the news: OpenAI previously developed a robotics simulation environment, a reinforcement learning toolkit, and techniques for training robots.

Why it matters: The robotics industry has seen several high-profile players struggle with the high cost of research and development. In recent years, Honda shuttered its Asimo subsidiary, Rethink Robotics closed up shop, and Boston Robotics, famous for its acrobatic bipeds and resilient quadrupeds, repeatedly changed hands.

We’re thinking: When even a fleet of robots isn’t able to generate enough data, that’s a sign of how data-hungry our algorithms are. It’s also a reminder of how far the current state of the art is from human-level AI. After all, infants have only one body’s worth of data to learn from.


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