Update: This article has been amended to stress that the experiment was abandoned because the programs were not doing the work required, not because they were afraid of the results, as has been reported elsewhere.
But they quickly broke down as the robots appeared to chant at each other in a language that they each understood but which appears mostly incomprehensible to humans.
The robots had been instructed to work out how to negotiate between themselves, and improve their bartering as they went along.
But they were not told to use comprehensible English, allowing them to create their own "shorthand", according to researchers.
The actual negotiations appear very odd, and don't look especially useful: Bob: i can i i everything else .
Join here for the latest on how people are making money – and how they're losing it.