August 2, 2012
Microsoft Turning Bosses Into Robots With Latest Creation
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
If your boss wasn't already intimidating enough, Microsoft is coming up with a solution to turn him or her into a robot.
Microsoft is developing a robot that can act as a virtual presence for a boss who is absent from the office, thus putting an end to those who live out the saying "when the cat's away, the mice will play."
The robot will be equipped with a pair of cameras, a high-definition display and wheels. It will be controlled over the Internet by a user sitting in front of a computer with a webcam.
The user will have the ability to "see" and roam around an area, as well as chat "face to face" with someone standing in front of the robot.
The robot's proxy camera will be able to hone in on the person in the room who is speaking, and as they move, the robot can turn and move along with it.
Microsoft spends about $9 billion on research, and this isn't the first time a robot has come out of the Redmond, Washington research lab.
One robot developed at the research lab there is able to play with your dog while you are at work, by allowing you to see and talk with your dog through Skype, throw a ball and give it a treat.
The latest virtual presence device by Microsoft has more functions than keeping an eye on employees at work. Essentially, a mobile Internet connection could allow the robot to go where ever you are unable to attend, offering up an unlimited number of uses as a virtual presence device.
Microsoft's Kinect device has allowed robotic researchers the opportunity to add motion sensing technology to their creations at an affordable rate.
At the International Robotics Conference redOrbit attended in May, many researchers showed off how Microsoft's Kinect was able to take their robot to a new level. While some motion sensing devices can cost thousands of dollars, Kinect can add the ability to a robot for just a couple hundred bucks.
Kinect, which was developed for motion sensing gaming on Microsoft's Xbox, is most often used in robotics to either build an environment, or identify people in the room. Giving a robot the ability to do this enables researchers to program all sorts of applications.
One example is to program a robot to use the Kinect to identify an object in a room to pick up and move. While Kinect doesn't take away the need for programming and engineering, it does open up futuristic functions for a low cost.