With ROS for Windows, developers will be able to use Microsoft’s familiar Visual Studio toolset along with AI (artificial intelligence) and cloud features. The company is hoping to bring an intelligent edge to robotics by offering functions such as hardware-accelerated Windows Machine Learning, computer vision, Azure Cognitive Services, Azure IoT cloud services to industrial, commercial, educational and domestic robots.

Microsoft has joined the ROS Industrial Consortium whose mission is to extend the advanced capabilities of ROS to manufacturing and to improve the productivity and return on investment of industrial robots. It is working with the Consortium and Open Robotics to bring the Robot Operating System to Windows.

At the recent ROSCon developers’ conference in Madrid, Spain, Microsoft demonstrated a Robotis Turtlebot 3 mobile robot, running the ROS release known as Melodic Morenia, that recognises and steers toward the person closest to the robot. The robot was running Windows 10 IoT Enterprise using a new ROS node that uses hardware-accelerated Windows Machine Learning.

Microsoft also showed a ROS simulation environment running in Azure. It demonstrated a swarm of robots running in a virtual world connected to an orchestration system and controlled via Azure IoT Hub.

Microsoft will host the Windows builds for ROS1 and shortly ROS2, as well as providing documentation, development and deployment tools for Windows. To help users get started with using ROS for Windows and ROS with Azure, it has created an online guide.