The Week in Tech: The Robots Aren’t as Human as They Seem

One company at the leading edge of the real world is RightHand Robotics, which is fashioning “picking” robots inside an old post office building in Somerville. Presented with a bin full of stuff, they can grab and pick up individual objects, even if they haven’t seen them before. This is just what a company like Amazon need inside its massive distribution centers.

But companies like RightHand are still perfecting the art of picking. And the next task — deciding where each object should go — is even harder. Right now, RightHand is leaning on systems that scan the bar code attached to each item. Identifying items without bar codes is harder still.

When you consider that Amazon is growing at a tremendous rate, there is no shortage of jobs for good old humans inside those distribution centers. And that won’t change for a while. But I will say this: The technology is improving faster than ever before.

But enough with the robots. There is more to consider in the here and now:

■ President Trump is kicking his China trade war into overdrive. He says this will maintain American greatness in the face of Beijing’s master plan to dominate the technological future. But as our Washington tech correspondent, Cecilia Kang, reports, American tech and telecom companies paint a different picture.

■ The Facebook saga continues, as you knew it would. Our Silicon Valley correspondent Mike Isaac returned from book leave with a scoop: Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the founders of Instagram, the hugely popular, photo-tastic social network owned by Facebook, are leaving the company. And here is why.

■ No, it’s not at Facebook levels yet, but the Google saga is picking up steam. Three weeks ago, Google did not attend a Senate hearing dedicated to Russian disinformation on social media, refusing to send a top executive. But the company was on the Capitol Hill hot seat this pat week, as lawmakers questioned whether Google services are silencing conservative voices. Daisuke Wakabayashi and Ms. Kang reported.

■ Of course, the real issue is Russian disinformation. Check out columnist Kevin Roose’s piece on USAReally, a website that is not what it might seem. Hint: It’s based in Moscow.

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