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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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July 24, 2008 3:05 PM

FAM: Robotic receptionists coming to Microsoft buildings

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

As my colleague Brier Dudley noted, Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie just described spatial interaction with computers as a major new frontier in computing.

He also showed progress Microsoft has made in robotics and natural user interfaces such as speech and facial recognition. He gave one demonstration of how Microsoft is putting these big ideas in practice.

Microsoft is working on "robotic receptionists" for its buildings that will perform one of the most common but mundane tasks that the real receptionists do dozens of times a day: scheduling shuttles, Mundie said.

Microsofties make their way around the sprawling, wooded campus here in Redmond by taking shuttles. In a video demonstration at today's analysts meeting, a female face looked out from a computer screen and asked employees who approached, "You want a shuttle, right?"

It asked a pair of employees if they were riding together and where they were headed. After verifying their destination a second time, the "receptionist" scheduled a pick up. "You will be on shuttle 32. It should be here in four minutes. Bye."

Mundie didn't say when these receptionists would start. And it doesn't appear that they would replace the contracted receptionists who staff the lobbies of Microsoft's many buildings. The robotic receptionists apparently can only perform a single task.

Update, 5:33 p.m.: A Microsoft spokesman said the robotic receptionists would begin to show up later this year. Apparently Mundie said that, too, but I didn't hear it.

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