Microsoft is building your robot boss

@CNNMoneyTech August 1, 2012: 9:50 AM ET

REDMOND, Wash. (CNNMoney) -- This is part 3 of CNNMoney's series looking inside Microsoft's research lab.

When your boss is taking a holiday on some tropical island, it's usually cause for celebration. Soon, though, your supervisor could be in the office and on vacation at the same time.

At its research lab in Redmond, Wash., Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) is working on a robot that will allow people to be in two places at once.

Microsoft's robot comes with a pair of cameras, a high-definition display and wheels. It's all controlled over the Internet by a user sitting in front of a computer with a webcam. That setup gives the user the ability to "see" and roam around an area, and to chat "face to face" with someone standing in front of the robot.

The robot proxy's camera can be trained to focus on an individual who is speaking, and as that person moves, the robot turns or moves along. That makes everything from a conference room meeting to a "walk and talk" possible.

So, while sipping Mai Tais by the pool, bosses of the future could simultaneously be making the rounds and reprimanding employees for failing to put cover sheets on their TPS reports.

Of course, there are plenty of other use cases. You could send a robot to a PTA meeting while you're at your kid's soccer game. You could attend a concert that you couldn't otherwise afford to go to. Or maybe you could travel the world from the comfort of your living room, connecting to robots in far off lands.

Like all research projects at Microsoft, the robots are an experiment that may never see the light of day. But if Microsoft doesn't perfect the technology, someone else will soon. Robotics startup Anybots has had some success with its QB telepresence robots, which start at $9,700.

The rollout of 4G networks and the increasingly pervasive presence of Wi-Fi means it's just a matter of time before Internet-connected robots are roaming the streets and the halls of your office.

The bad news is that it may also spell the end of sick days. To top of page

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