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Microbots: Microsoft’s multi-pronged robotics play takes shape

MicrosoftBots

Mary Jo Foley for All About Microsoft: In the early 2000s, Microsoft was all-in on robotics. By the middle of that decade, the company seemingly had all but abandoned the robotics space.

But this may be the year that Microsoft may be ready to get back into robotics, on multiple fronts.

When Microsoft founder Bill Gates was still involved in the day-to-day operations of the company, robotics was slated to be one of Microsoft's next big things. Microsoft built a programming model and framework for developers working on anything from Lego robots to industrial-scale robots. However, that product, "Microsoft Robotics Studio," never really went beyond the academic and hobbyist communities and the company's ambitions in this space withered.

Cut to 2017. These days, the home for a good chunk of the Microsoft current robotics work is apparently in Microsoft Research (MSR) — specifically in the AI + Research (AI+R) Group under executive vice president Harry Shum. (I say "apparently" here because Microsoft officials declined to answer any of my questions on the company's robotics initiatives.) Shum is known for his work in computer vision and graphics and has a Ph.D. in robotics from Carnegie Mellon. Cont'd…