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.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags emerging technologyavatarspatial computingEmTech08

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

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

Robert L. Mitchell

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?