Microsoft Interest In Robotics
Posted on Aug 15, 2011 6:00 AM. 2 min read time
The 2006 cover of Scientific American magazine, had the title "Dawn of the Age of Robots." It featured an article by Bill Gates calling for "a robot in every home." In this article, the founder of Microsoft insisted that the next technological breakthrough would be robotics if the following points were to happen:
- Standardization of robots
- Reduction of hardware costs, especially for sensors
- Software application conduction, processing, and usage
Well, these things are happening, and Microsoft seems very interested.
The plead for cheap hardware by Bill Gates in 2006 was answered indirectly by his own company. Kinect, originally for Xbox gaming experiences, was a total success. Xbox sales were greatly improved, but the most interesting thing for robotics is the "Kinect hack" community that appeared soon after its release. Amateurs and professionals quickly realised the sensor can be applied in robotics for either navigation, manipulation or human recognition.
Microsoft was probably not aware of the full potential of Kinect in the robotic field, but on the software side the company have been working for some time to develop its Robot Developer Studio (RDS). RDS is a software that provides an environment for robot control and simulation and is available from Microsoft free of charge. Microsoft's robotic team also just released Kinect Services for RDS (also free).
Microsoft is generously supporting robotic development, but it is clear that in the mid to long-term, the company aims for profit, and we cannot blame them for that. Microsoft is obviously establishing a name in robotics, the Microsoft blog on robotics has been very active lately. You can find news about the development of RDS, applications for Kinect, software applications on Microsoft Surface and even news about the general robotics industry. The company is also sponsoring research via awards. Microsoft also have a robotic division off its website home page that can be found here.
Time will Tell
We can clearly see that Microsoft is trying to establish its position into the new and growing field of service robotics with free-of-charge software (RDS) and low-cost hardware (Kinect). What will they do next? Keep the "support" role or get directly involved, maybe by buying out some major service robot company?