Thursday, December 06, 2007

Tandy Trower - Microsoft & Robotics

Talking Robots - Tandy Trower - Microsoft & Robotics In today's episode we talk to Tandy Trower, a 26-year Microsoft veteran who is now the General Manager of the Microsoft Robotics Group. He's been involved in most MS products we know today, from BASIC and the Microsoft Flight Simulator to Microsoft Windows.

In this year's January edition of Scientific American, Bill Gates predicted a "Robot in Every Home" after having told Tandy Trower "to go on an extended fact-finding mission and to speak with people across the robotics community". As a result, Microsoft launched their "Robotics Studio" without losing a split second. With a team of only 12 people they've been developing the tools needed to program and simulate today's robotic platforms from the critical real-time interfaces, to the kinematics and high level-behaviors. It took less than two years to see the Microsoft Robotics Studio surface in events such as Robocup, the Darpa urban challenge , the Sumo robot competition and the international autonomous underwater vehicle competition.

Spurred on by the resemblance between the robotics community today and the one of PCs 30 years ago, the MS Robotics Studio has increased the pressure on Player, Webots, Gostai and Evolution Robotics - however, for now the jury on tomorrow's gold standard in robotics is still out.

To get an idea of what the Microsoft robotics studio is all about, here are a couple of it's main ingredients: In this interview, Tandy Trower tells us why Microsoft is interested in robotics, if we'll ever see anything close to open source and if we are really going towards a robot in every home.



  • Thanks for putting Tandy Trower on the podcast. Unfortunately, the interview was a bit disappointing in that the interviewer could easily have come from MS itself, so promotional and softball were the questions and so longwinded and uninterrupted were the answers.

    In particular, Why is MS doing MSRS? To help all those roboticists who begged MS to build it for them? Comeon, it's a Windows Only platform and is not open source.
    Oh, and by the way, MS is in the business of making money. So how do they cash in?
    It's great to have Talking Robots out there but if it's just going to be promotional claptrap, skip it.

  • Dear Dan,

    I am glad that you like the Talking Robots podcast series!

    I understand your concern regarding Microsoft approaching the robotics arena. Irrespectively of whether one likes or not their products and commercial policies, they are a major player in Information Technologies and have the potential to significantly affect robotics -- for the good or for the bad.
    That's why I felt that it was important interviewing the head of Microsoft robotics division.

    As with all interviews, we maintain an enthusiastic and optimistic attitude, but this should not be interpreted as endorsement of any particular approach or technology.

    In any case, I appreciated that you took the time to leave a comment! I hope that more people will do so in the future.

    With best regards on behalf of the entire team,

    Dario Floreano,
    Talking Heads, director

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