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Microsoft announces Robot Operating System for Windows 10

Microsoft has always invested in the field of Artificial intelligence (AI), but so far, its efforts have been focused on the software side of things. Now, the company has announced that it is bringing the Robot Operating System (ROS1) to Windows 10.

Is Ex Machina just around the corner?

In a blog post, Microsoft has stated that ROS1 is an experimental release, which contains the tools and libraries that will enable developers to build complex robots, while also towing the security features of Windows 10 IoT. It will allow developers to utilize advanced capabilities such as computer vision, Windows Machine Learning, and Azure Cognitive Services, among others, in their robots.

Microsoft stated that:

People have always been fascinated by robots. Today advanced robots are complementing our lives, both at work and at home. Warehouse robots have enabled next-day deliveries to online shoppers, and many pet owners rely on robotic vacuums to keep their floors clean. Industries seeing benefits from robots are as diverse as manufacturing, transportation, healthcare and real estate. As robots have advanced, so have the development tools. We see robotics with artificial intelligence as universally accessible technology to augment human abilities.

[...] Microsoft is working with Open Robotics and the ROS Industrial Consortium to bring the Robot Operating System to Windows. Microsoft has joined the ROS Industrial Consortium whose mission is to extend the advanced capabilities of ROS to manufacturing and improve the productivity and return on investment of industrial robots.

At the ongoing ROSCon 2018 event, Microsoft will showcase a ROBOTIS Turtlebot 3 robot, running on a ROS build and powered by Windows 10 IoT Enterprise on an Intel Coffee Lake NUC. The machine will utilize Windows Machine Learning to steer towards the person closest to them. The company will also sport a ROS simulation environment in Azure which will feature a "swarm of robots running in a virtual world connected to an orchestration system and controlled via Azure IoT Hub."

This development could potentially provide benefits in numerous industrial, commercial, and educational scenarios where robots running on ROS and Windows 10 could augment humans. Microsoft says that it will host builds for ROS2 as well soon, and will provide full documentation and support for Windows-based solutions. You can find out more about the endeavor here.

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