On a recent afternoon at the NVIDIA robotics research lab in Seattle's University District, researchers use a simulated kitchen to test robots' ability to perform simple tasks such as grabbing objects. A 5-feet 7-inch tall white robot, basically a spindly arm affixed with a claw of the sort customarily found in an arcade vending machine, glided around the kitchen on its two Segway wheels. Following the command of a research scientist sitting at a nearby computer, the robot grabbed a Cheez-It box on the counter and extended its limb to gently place the snacks inside a cabinet. "What's deceptive is that what's simple to us in the kitchen is challenging for a robot," said University of Washington Computer Science and Engineering Professor Dieter Fox, who also serves as the lab's senior director of robotics research. The Silicon Valley-based technology company opened the robotics lab last fall to harness the UW's talent in a sector where Seattle plays a central role.