Microsoft demos robotic receptionist

Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie used his speech on Thursday to show off a robot that can perform basic tasks.

Microsoft plans to use this robot receptionist to handle the task of reserving interoffice shuttles for its employees. Microsoft

REDMOND, Wash.--Microsoft's receptionist of the future is a robot.

Chief Research and Strategy officer Craig Mundie on Thursday demonstrated a software-based robot that uses a combination of visual and voice recognition as well as speech synthesis to handle basic tasks. Microsoft itself plans to use the software robot to handle shuttle requests in its own buildings, which typically have a pair of receptionists to handle visitors and shuttle requests.

In a video, two Microsoft employees approach the robot, who said (in a rather robotic voice) "Which building do you want to go to?"

After checking that she heard the visitors correctly, and double-checking both workers want to take the same shuttle, the robot declares: "It should be here in four minutes."

"This is what a natural user interface is all about and it won't be just a receptionist," Mundie said. "This is just the tip of the iceberg."

Microsoft has launched a robotics effort, though it is still in its early stages.

The demo came as part of Mundie's presentation at the company's Financial Analysts Meeting here. Mundie is one of two executives (Ray Ozzie is the other) tasked with filling the very large shoes left by Bill Gates, who stepped down from full-time work at Microsoft last month.

Ozzie also presented Thursday, promising the rest of Microsoft's cloud computing strategy will be revealed over the coming fiscal year (which runs through June), although he gave little in the way of new specifics.

"FY 09 will round out the story with some significant announcements," he said. Microsoft is widely expected to expand on its Live Mesh product and discuss its developer strategy at its Professional Developers Conference, which takes place in October in Los Angeles.

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