Is 2018 Finally the Year of Windows on the Robot?

Microsoft is bringing ROS to Window 10. ROS stands for Robot Operating System, a software framework and large collection of libraries for developing robots which we recently wrote an introductory article about, It’s long been primarily supported under Linux and Mac OS X, and even then, best under Ubuntu. My own efforts to get it working under the Raspbian distribution on the Raspberry Pi led me to instead download a Pi Ubuntu image. So having it running with the support of Microsoft on Windows will add some welcome variety.

TurtleBot 3 at ROSCon 2018
TurtleBot 3 at ROSCon 2018, Photo: Evan Ackerman/IEEE Spectrum

To announce it to the world, they had a small booth at the recent ROSCon 2018 in Madrid. There they showed a Robotis TurtleBot 3 robot running the Melodic Morenia release of ROS under Windows 10 IoT Enterprise on an Intel Coffee Lake NUC and with a ROS node incorporating hardware-accelerated Windows Machine Learning.

Why are they doing this? It may be to help promote their own machine learning products to roboticists and manufacturing. From their recent blog entry they say:

We’re looking forward to bringing the intelligent edge to robotics by bringing advanced features like hardware-accelerated Windows Machine Learning, computer vision, Azure Cognitive Services, Azure IoT cloud services, and other Microsoft technologies to home, education, commercial, and industrial robots.

Initially, they’ll support ROS1, the version most people will have used, but also have plans for ROS2. Developers will use Microsoft’s Visual Studio toolset. Thus far it’s an experimental release but you can give it a try by starting with the details here.

[Main Image Credit: Microsoft]

52 thoughts on “Is 2018 Finally the Year of Windows on the Robot?

  1. I had to read this again to make sure that it wasn’t satire… I can just imagine the joy that will ensue when the system decides to do a mandatory update & reboot mid motion while waving a weight around on it’s end effector…

      1. Because to date they have been so willing to bring some sanity to the update nonsence?
        We have moved some workshop apps back to XP boxes to prevent the problem but that only lasts so long, hopefully the supplier will move to Linux instead.

          1. Walking away from a box only to return and find that it has taken it upon itself to update and reboot mid job.
            We, like most other small shops, don’t have access to LTSB.
            No! I’m going to purchase, set-up and maintain another box just to overcome the fact that my supplier has lacked the common decency to allow me to determine when the equipment is available for update.

        1. Not sure if moving back to XP can solve update problems. I recall years ago a forced update and reboot which affected all the machines of an office while I was doing maintenance. Not sure how long ago it happened but I’m pretty confident it was XP SP2 or 3.

      2. Older folk will recognise that we have been here before. The last time that the beast went on a “Windows for wheely-bins” market push they put windows on a battleship which subsequently went on to end up dead in the water. A large rudderless piece of scrap metal that came as no surprise to the good industrial folk who were often heard to utter the words “over my dead body” when anyone suggested allowing windows to be involved in any form of control within their factory.

    1. I’ve had a problem with even win XP auto updating something that broke the SQL driver for the system. The testing system stopped working. Luckily there was an updated driver, that i updated and that fixed the issue, but the autoupdate was disabled.

    2. Lets get real here. Microsoft forces updates on _retail_ Windows because Windows has a reputation for being a big target for viruses. The reason it is a big target for viruses is two fold, one, the vast majority of people were using it, and the vast majority of the retail users didn’t keep it up to date.

      Also note, I have specifically called out _retail_ windows having forced updates. If you are running a corporate network, Microsoft assumes you know what you are doing and allows you to do updates according to your risk team’s schedule, not Microsoft’s schedule. If automatic updates are causing you problems, look at your IT department before looking at Microsoft.

      (Not a Microsoft shill… OS agnostic tbh.)

      1. “…because Windows has a reputation for being a big target for viruses.”

        Yawn. What an old, overly repeated crock of bull. Yah, Windows is what’s on the personal computers of most of your friends and relatives so, it’s popularity must make it a juicier target.

        No, not really. You want people’s data? Do you chose the computer with one person’s information on it or the one with 10s of thousands of people’s data? You want to make a bot net? Do you want a bunch of crappy old PCs of dubious quality barely hanging to the internet via some joker’s home “broadband” connection? Or do you want a fast, powerful machine that is wired into a fat internet backbone?

        That’s right, you don’t want your virus to target home PCs you want to target servers. Most servers don’t run Windows, they either run Linux or some other Unix OS. So why do the virus writers keep targeting Windows?

        They do it because Windows computers are relatively easy to hack. That’s it. No more need be said on that subject. Windows just sucks.

        Also, you called out Mikeysoft on their update policies? LOL, Who are you?!?

      2. I have lost time to two viral issues in the last 30 years. One was an actual virus in the early 90’s & the other was the POS anti-virus program deleting valid files after a dud update sent it birko.

        The other primary loss of time of late has been Win 10 randomly interrupting real work and losing data with it’s BS forced updates. We mitigated this by moving applications to linux where possible and also going back to XP on others.

        Hence my initial post, proposing using Win 10 for control applications barely even qualifies as satire let alone a practical proposition.

        Seeing Win 10 on the control panel of a piece of equipment would be absolute grounds for not purchasing the equipment.

    1. “ROS is a framework consisting of a huge number of libraries and tools specifically for developing robots. It’s open source and most code comes under the BSD license. It’s also community supported.”

      Trigger words are fun!

  2. I’m assuming that this MBA-esque attempt to moosh yet another market sector under their umbrella will only connect to your Windows phone or PCjr and dance with your Zune. I cant wait until it’s used for remote surgery.

    1. Maybe in 1998, but the opposite is true today if you spent a second to google before you buy.

      Windows 10 contains corporate-marketing dried jizz on every part of the system — and you know it.

    2. Please stay away from Linux, don´t even try it again. It´s users like you that make it look like in the 90s. Oh and buy yourself a premium Windows assistance package, you might need it.

      And about “all my components will be compatible with each other”, which Windows version are you talking about ?
      When was last time you had to buy some new hardware because the older, reliable one that you were using for years was not supported by the newer Windows version required by another software upgrade ?

      1. I must be the only one and you’ll think me a troll, but I bought some new hardware specifically a PCI to PCI-X converter card.
        It was plug and play in windows but various flavours of linux were having none of it.
        It came down to badly writting IRQ mappings or something like that.
        Yeah sure, if I could programme well enough maybe I could rewrite the kernel to make it work.
        Meanwhile it just worked in windows out of the box without a driver – you know like most modern motherboards use the same PCI to PCI-X chipset to give them onboard PCi slots (no longer native).
        So how did linux screw it up so poorly? Searching around for help I wasn’t alone, and other branded motherboards with PCI slots were also working fine in windows and not under linux.

        Now I’m no OS zealot and never have been, and I use linux and I use windows.
        But this whole “you’ll never have problems on linux” attitude is just plain wrong.

        And the linux zealots blame the hardware manufacturers for not writing drivers for their OS….
        Maybe because its’ a cluster fuk to suport it?

        Sadly you seem to fall into the arrogant linux user camp – dont deserve to use this OS.

    3. That’s the fault of wi-fi chipset makers.
      Often they’re reluctant or outright refuses to release binary blobs for Linux.
      Thankfully it’s less common today, but there’s still fools in the industry.

    4. I find this hilarious, because about 5% of the time it comes out of sleep mode my Windows 10 PC will insist that its *wired* network connection hardware doesn’t exist.
      Plus, every time Windows updates itself, it insists on switching my USB audio device to a driver that causes my speakers to snap, crackle, and pop every time a sound is played.

      Meanwhile, I can’t even remember the last time my Ubuntu PC has given me trouble.

  3. My question would be is what is Microsoft going to do with the additional telemetry they will be archiving. They collect metadata on just about everything that everyone does using their OS these days.

    1. The issue is that ROS is not real time (It can’t be, it runs on top of a non-real time OS). It does not mean ROS cannot be used for an autonomous vehicle. Many companies sell robots that run ROS to be used in research, commercial and industrial environments, ReThink Robotics, Clearpath Robotics to name a few.

  4. This is a hilariously bad idea. There are productive, reliable robots deployed in manufacturing throughout the world. What can be done to improve them?
    Make them more efficient? Cheaper? More reliable? No, that’s too hard, and not rewarding enough.

    Instead, put the control system in an offsite cloud, to increase latency, and decrease security and reliability. And the best part? Charging subscription fees to provide mandatory updates on an unpredictable schedule. What could possibly go wrong?

  5. I’m sure it will work fine, until Microsoft pulls the plug. We have seen a Windows for phones, a Windows for super computers, a Windows for cars, etc. The industry won’t be fooled again.

  6. Instead of the usual microsoft bashing I’ll give a short summary of the last 2 experiences I had with that OS.
    A presentation during a funeral I attended (Sister in law) was interrupted with a popup screen that windows had to restart because it had updated a printer driver.

    A brother of mine has a big CNC router and he had to press the “cancel” button every half hour during an 6 hour CNC job because windows kept on insisting on reboots.

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