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Old 01-04-2007, 12:41 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Microsoft Positions for Robot Era

Bill Gates believes robots could become a "nearly ubiquitous part of our day-to-day-lives", and he's already jostling to lead the industry.

In an article he wrote for the January 2007 edition of Scientific American, titled "A Robot in Every Home", the Microsoft chairman claims the robotics industry hasn't achieved critical mass because it lacks common standards or platforms.

"Robotics companies have no standard operating software that could allow popular application programs to run in a variety of devices," he wrote.

"Projects are complex, progress is slow and practical applications are relatively rare."

Gates compared the current state of robotics to the early days of the computer industry 30 years ago: "think of the manufacturing robots currently used on automobile assembly lines as the equivalent of yesterday's mainframes."

Gates' comments are unashamedly self-serving - around the same time the article was published, Microsoft announced its first commercial operating system for robots - Microsoft Robotics Studio.

Just like Microsoft's computer operating system provided a common platform for the PC and planted Microsoft firmly at the forefront of the industry, Robotics Studio, if it takes off, would put Microsoft in a similar position in the robotics industry.

It is unsurprising, then, that Gates' tone is markedly bullish.

"We may be on the verge of a new era, when the PC will get up off the desktop and allow us to see, hear, touch and manipulate objects in places where we are not physically present," Gates wrote.

Falling hardware prices and the increasing availability of tremendous amounts of computing power are diminishing the barriers to robot development, he added.

Even today, technologies such as global positioning system (GPS) chips, video cameras, array microphones and other sensors allowed "robots to do things such as vacuum a room or help to defuse a roadside bomb - tasks that would have been impossible for commercially produced machines just a few years ago".

The next step is to design robots that can concurrently process data from multiple sensors, which would allow them to behave far closer to those found in Isaac Asimov's I, Robot and Star Wars, he said.

Microsoft's entry into robotics surprised few technology industry watchers, and Gates did little to hide his motivations: "The Japanese Robot Association predicts that by 2025, the personal robot industry will be worth more than $US50 billion a year worldwide, compared to about $US5 billion today."
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Old 01-04-2007, 02:01 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Yeah but when they take over they will have this to worry about

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