Meet Roborazzi

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 13:27 06/09/2012
Roborazzi
Supplied
L-R: Loke-Uei Tan watches as roborazzi takes a photo while Russell Smithies of AgResearch, in Dunedin, looks on.

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Meet Roborazzi. He's a roving robotic photographer.

"If the robot does something bad just spank it," quips Roborazzi's minder Loke-Uei Tan, senior technical product manager at Microsoft's robotics division.

He was keeping an eye on the robot as it wheeled the SkyCity, Auckland, halls at the country's largest annual conference, Microsoft Tech Ed New Zealand 2012 photographing the delegates and uploading their pictures to online picture sharing website Flickr.

Roborazzi was built by Mr Tan and his 25 team at international headquarters in Redmond in Seattle.

At Roborazzi's heart is a laptop connected to a couple of Kinect sensors with which its navigates and identifies its subjects and a Canon digital SLR set on a pivoting mount which moves as he composes a picture.

He's governed by software written on Microsoft's Robotics Developer Studio version 4 which can be downloaded for free from microsoft.com/robotics.

"All the parts are off the shelf," said Mr Tan, whose division is sister to the research division.

They are sourced from the likes of Parallex and Servocity.

Mr Tan said most people didn't realise Microsoft was playing the robotics space but it had been for years.

"We firmly know that robotics is going to be the future and we are trying to do something which helps that," he said.

Robots and their android cousins have been popular staples of science fiction stories since the genre emerged with the most popular examples being the Swiss Army knife on wheels of the Star Wars films, R2-D2, and Star Trek: The Generation's Pinnoichio like science offficer of the starship Enterprise, Data.

Mr Tan thought R2-D2 like robots, designed for specific functions such as building cars or vacuming, were more likely to be widespread than humanoid robots like Data.

"We will have to deal with the legal issues of having a robot in your home. Can you live with a robot and be sure it won't kill a baby or a cat or start a fire."

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