June 20, 2006 12:01 AM PDT

Microsoft enters robotics race

Imagine a world with Windows-powered robots that can perform house chores, schedule appointments or walk the dog.

It may turn into a reality now that Microsoft has ventured into robotics, a field long relegated to science fiction, but which increasingly has come to life in recent years.

Microsoft said Tuesday it launched a new research group and the company's first-ever robotics software, available for public preview via download. The technology, called Microsoft Robotics Studio, is a Windows-based toolkit designed so that commercial and individual developers can create intelligent applications for a range of products.

Microsoft Robotics Studio

"We hope to put in place the basic plumbing layer to help people get started (creating) robotics applications, and allow third parties to bring their hardware and software to share with everyone," said Tandy Trower, general manager of the Microsoft Robotics Group.

Microsoft is also funding a new research lab, called the Center for Innovative Robotics, at Carnegie Mellon University, a pioneer in robotics research. Funds allotted to the CMU lab and its own research group were not disclosed.

With Microsoft's heft and money, the field of robotics will likely gain visibility, experts say. Long only a sci-fi fantasy, robotics has made headway in recent years through outfits like iRobot, a commercial maker of military robots and smart floor-cleaners. But some forays into robotics by major corporations such as Intel have petered out.

In academia, there has been considerable progress. CMU, for example, has developed artificial-intelligence technology to advance manufacturing and mining. Last fall, Stanford University won a first-ever DARPA race for its unmanned vehicle, which crossed 131 miles in the Mojave Desert in just more than six hours.

"The robotics industry is a lot like the PC industry in the late '70s; it's difficult to know what key applications will open up the area," Trower said.

Still, he highlighted some possibilities, such as "remote presence," or smart products that can alert the elderly to take medication at the prescribed time, for example.

Bill Gates alluded to Microsoft's entry into robotics last week, during his announcement that he would phase out his day-to-day involvement at the company he founded.

Gates said during a news conference, "We have an incubation group under Research that's working on robotics. We're not going to get anything out of that right away, but that's this neat new area."

Microsoft also has several academic and commercial partners that plan to support its software. Those include CMU, Lego, CoroWare, KUKA Robot Group, Robosoft and MobileRobots. The company plans to unveil the software preview at the RoboBusiness Conference and Exposition 2006, in Pittsburgh.

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26 comments

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Microsoft powered robots.
Can you imagine it. A robot that anytime you ask it do multitask or prioritise multiple tasks that it just blows up. My God. Give me strenght.
Posted by domeara (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I've yet to understand
I've yet to understand why so many people are so negative about Windows XP. I use it in a daily basis and use a variety of different applications on it and I virtually never have any problems with it. Infact the more I use it the more I'm impressed with it.

Or maybe it's just that people hate MS for some reason I don't understand.
Posted by coryschulz (326 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft powered robots.
Can you imagine it. A robot that anytime you ask it do multitask or prioritise multiple tasks that it just blows up. My God. Give me strenght.
Posted by domeara (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I've yet to understand
I've yet to understand why so many people are so negative about Windows XP. I use it in a daily basis and use a variety of different applications on it and I virtually never have any problems with it. Infact the more I use it the more I'm impressed with it.

Or maybe it's just that people hate MS for some reason I don't understand.
Posted by coryschulz (326 comments )
Link Flag
BSOD
Hope MS has enough sense to include a small monitor to show the BSOD and, of course, CTL-ALT-DEL keys on their robots.
Posted by shineon4me (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
BSOD
Hope MS has enough sense to include a small monitor to show the BSOD and, of course, CTL-ALT-DEL keys on their robots.
Posted by shineon4me (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
perfect example
What M$ does best. they make a standard OS, now software makers can create software that a majority of the world can use. they make a standard browser, the world can make web pages that the majority can view without trouble. They make directX and game companies can create with greater ease. lets face it, creative people are not the most techinical all of the time. if M$ can make a simpler way to interface with robotics we could see some amazing innovation down the road. which M$ can then turn around and use a "critical update" to complete it's plans to rule the world. Vicki... i mean M$ knows best.
Posted by jeffhesser (102 comments )
Reply Link Flag
perfect example
What M$ does best. they make a standard OS, now software makers can create software that a majority of the world can use. they make a standard browser, the world can make web pages that the majority can view without trouble. They make directX and game companies can create with greater ease. lets face it, creative people are not the most techinical all of the time. if M$ can make a simpler way to interface with robotics we could see some amazing innovation down the road. which M$ can then turn around and use a "critical update" to complete it's plans to rule the world. Vicki... i mean M$ knows best.
Posted by jeffhesser (102 comments )
Reply Link Flag
perfect example
What M$ does best. they make a standard OS, now software makers can create software that a majority of the world can use. they make a standard browser, the world can make web pages that the majority can view without trouble. They make directX and game companies can create with greater ease. lets face it, creative people are not the most technical all of the time. if M$ can make a simpler way to interface with robotics we could see some amazing innovation down the road. which M$ can then turn around and use a "critical update" to complete it's plans to rule the world. Vicki... I mean M$ knows best.
Posted by jeffhesser (102 comments )
Reply Link Flag
perfect example
What M$ does best. they make a standard OS, now software makers can create software that a majority of the world can use. they make a standard browser, the world can make web pages that the majority can view without trouble. They make directX and game companies can create with greater ease. lets face it, creative people are not the most technical all of the time. if M$ can make a simpler way to interface with robotics we could see some amazing innovation down the road. which M$ can then turn around and use a "critical update" to complete it's plans to rule the world. Vicki... I mean M$ knows best.
Posted by jeffhesser (102 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Here's your next fortune
How many CNET readers reached the end of the '90's wondering wistfully how they never saw the personal computer and internet coming, but would have invested effectively if they had? Robotics is looking eerily like personal computing in the late '70's; the public is unaware of it, people in the field are scoffing at it in its nascent state, investors are ignoring it, yet its potential is so vast and the pieces of the puzzle are ripe for being put together into the next technical revolution. So the question is, as it was in the late '70's, how do you recognize the companies with something promising to invest in? Microsoft may have just made its stock a "buy" for this coming explosion of a new technology...
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Here's your next fortune
How many CNET readers reached the end of the '90's wondering wistfully how they never saw the personal computer and internet coming, but would have invested effectively if they had? Robotics is looking eerily like personal computing in the late '70's; the public is unaware of it, people in the field are scoffing at it in its nascent state, investors are ignoring it, yet its potential is so vast and the pieces of the puzzle are ripe for being put together into the next technical revolution. So the question is, as it was in the late '70's, how do you recognize the companies with something promising to invest in? Microsoft may have just made its stock a "buy" for this coming explosion of a new technology...
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Perfect Timing...
For the next comming of Bill.

NEW & IMPROVED!
The BillBot 2.0!

Now that BillBot 1.0 is getting ready to "retire", Microsoft has just announced it's increased efforts into robotics powered by Windows Live via MSatelite to your MSHome Of The Future from Redmond One.

"Danger Will Robinson, Danger!"
Posted by Llib Setag (951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well, at least you used a new Movie/TV show
But you forgot to mention that Apple did it first.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
Try, try again...
I knew there was something not quite right about Ballmer. I guess
he's a first generation model MSBot.
Posted by lkrupp (1608 comments )
Link Flag
Perfect Timing...
For the next comming of Bill.

NEW & IMPROVED!
The BillBot 2.0!

Now that BillBot 1.0 is getting ready to "retire", Microsoft has just announced it's increased efforts into robotics powered by Windows Live via MSatelite to your MSHome Of The Future from Redmond One.

"Danger Will Robinson, Danger!"
Posted by Llib Setag (951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well, at least you used a new Movie/TV show
But you forgot to mention that Apple did it first.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
Try, try again...
I knew there was something not quite right about Ballmer. I guess
he's a first generation model MSBot.
Posted by lkrupp (1608 comments )
Link Flag
 

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