The members of the Microsoft Robotics Group are betting that the robotics industry is about to take off.
Tandy Trower, general manager of the group, predicted that his three-year-old department, which operates like a start-up company inside Microsoft, will go from a quiet group to a major revenue source for within five years.
That will happen, he said, because the industry is quickly moving from one that mostly supplies giant robotic machines to factories and manufacturing plants to an industry that is creating robotic aids and companions in our homes.
"It's becoming more than big robots that don't interact with people," said Trower. "We're looking at more personal robots. Robotics is evolving to something you will engage with and that will serve you in your life in some way." And Microsoft is hoping to develop the software platform that will run the machines that will keep us company, play with us and even take care of the growing elderly population.
Trower led Computerworld on a tour of Microsoft's robotics facility. The company isn't making the robots themselves, but it is making a robotics software platform. During the tour, Microsoft engineers showed off robots -- some already on the market and some that are still in the works -- as examples of changes that are afoot in the industry.