Raúl Arrabales Moreno

Cognitive Neuroscience – Artificial Intelligence – Machine Consciousness

A Robot in Every Home

Scientific American January 2007 issue features an article by Bill Gates titled A Robot in Every Home [1]. Is domestic robotics industry going to reach critical mass in the short term? Robotics applications in manufacturing are a reality. However, practical application of robotics in the residential market is another story. In his article, Bill Gates talks about the challenges of this domain, and remarks the need for a standard framework (although he doesn’t mention it initially, obviously he is referring to the newly released Microsoft Robotics Studio).

Gate’s vision of robotics is based on an evolution of the PC. From personal computers in every home, to personal robots in every home. It is like endowing the current PCs with the features of typical science fiction robots. But, is this likely to happen in the short term? Is Microsoft powerful enough to drive such a change in the market? Do we actually have the required technology? I wouldn’t answer these questions yet, but I’d say that the time of NS-5 type robots hasn’t come yet.

Bill Gates seems to be conscious of the great challenge of making science fiction robots a reality. Nevertheless, he explains that current cost of technology is greatly facilitating the commercial production of the first domestic robots. It was in 2004 when Bill Gates asked Tandy Trower (the current general manager of Microsoft Robotics) to make a strategic report on robotics. His conclusion was that there is a need in the field for the right software. We could wonder whether or not we already have good software platforms for robotics development. Microsoft vision is that there is not such a development technology, and that is why they decided to launch the Microsoft Robotics Studio platform [2]. The article briefly describes the key components of Microsoft Robotics Studio: the CCR (Concurrency and Coordination Runtime) and DSS (Decentralized Software Services).

I think Bill is not wrong in his conclusion and envision of robotics industry. His aim to have Microsoft software as the underlying facilitator is a different thing. I believe that the Microsoft Robotics initiative is a smart one though, one has to be in the birth of an industry to make sure you get a piece of the cake. Will Microsoft + Robotics be a successful formula? We don’t know yet.

[1] “A Robot in Every Home”. Scientific American. January 2006 Issue.

[2] “Microsoft Robotics Studio 1.0 Released”. Conscious-Robots.com.

Raúl Arrabales

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