When we think of robots and the inevitable uprising, images of pretty much everything Boston Dymanics has developed come to mind. The hardware side of things tend to dominate the discussion, but what about the software? Inching us closer to our ultimate fate, Microsoft has developed an experimental operating system specifically for complex robotics.
Microsoft announced the new OS, called Robot Operating System (or ROS1) at ROSCon 2018 in Madrid. At present, it consists of a set of libraries and tools to help users build robots, the kind that are used in many cutting-edge robotic projects around the world, Microsoft says. It also leverages the manageability and security of Windows 10 IoT Enterprise.
"Windows has been a trusted partner of robotic and industrial systems for decades. With ROS for Windows, developers will be able to use the familiar Visual Studio toolset along with rich AI and cloud features," Microsoft explains. "We’re looking forward to bringing the intelligent edge to robotics by bringing advanced features like hardware-accelerated Windows Machine Learning, computer vision, Azure Cognitive Services, Azure IoT cloud services, and other Microsoft technologies to home, education, commercial, and industrial robots."
This is part of a larger push into advanced robotics. Microsoft said it also joined the ROS Industrial Consortium to extend the advanced capabilities of its new ROS to manufacturing. In addition, it showcased a couple of demonstrations.
ROS doesn't require heavy duty hardware to run. In one of the demos, Microsoft used a Next Unit of Computing (NUC).
"Microsoft demonstrated a Robotis Turtlebot 3 robot, running the ROS release known as Melodic Morenia, that recognized and steered toward the closest person to the robot. The robot runs Windows 10 IoT Enterprise on an Intel Coffee Lake NUC using a new ROS node which leverages hardware accelerated Windows Machine Learning," Microsoft said.
It also demonstrated a swarm of robots running in a virtual world connected to an orchestration system, and controlled via Azure IoT Hub.
"Microsoft will host the Windows builds for ROS1 and shortly ROS2, as well as provide documentation, development and deployment solutions for Windows," Microsoft added.