Microsoft demos robotic receptionist

Move over, Laura Croft.

Move over, Laura Croft. At the EmTech08 Emerging Technologies Conference Thursday, Microsoft’s Craig Mundie introduced the audience to “Laura,” a disembodied face that serves as a robotic receptionist - and a technology demonstration of spatial computing in action. Mundie, who is chief research and strategy officer, gave the demonstration of “spatial computing” during the keynote speech this morning.

She's no Tomb Raider. In fact, this Laura is nothing more than a face. The avatar, a disembodied 3D rendering of a woman’s face, floated eerily on a black background on a screen, and spoke as subjects approached her kiosk. The audience was treated to Laura’s view of the interaction, watching as the system targeted and identified objects in the room as people, closed in on their heads and marked the eyes of the target with a red laser-like dot indicating “eye contact” with the subject which Laura wanted to interact.

As the system walked two Microsoft employees through the process of getting a shuttle to another building, Mundie noted that the system could categorize them as employees based on their dress and change its behavior accordingly. For example, casually dressed people were assumed to be employees, he explained, and would be asked if they needed a shuttle. People appearing in a suit would be greeted in a different way.

Not only did the robotic receptionist extract context from what the subjects were wearing, but she could also extract information from a discussion between two subjects. When Laura asked if they needed a shuttle the men answered in the affirmative. When she asked which building they needed, a discussion between the men ensued as to whether or not it was building nine. The avatar listened, then inquired as to whether in fact they needed to go to building nine.

What’s amazing is the incredible amount of horsepower that was needed for the application. Just sitting idle at her virtual station, Laura burned up 40 percent of the compute power in an eight-core machine. But hardware isn’t the only obstacle to spatial computing, Mundie said. The software has become so complicated that it’s difficult to get such systems to work reliably and at the level of performance users will demand. Furthermore, the tools available for building such systems at a very large scale, with distributed components that work across the Internet, are inadequate. “Our tools were never designed to address this complexity,” Mundie said.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert L. Mitchell

Computerworld
Topics: avatar, emerging technology, EmTech08, spatial computing
Comments are now closed.

Latest News Articles

Most Popular Articles

Follow Us

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Resources

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Compare & Save

Deals powered by WhistleOut
WhistleOut

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?