Members of Microsoft's Robotics Group are confident robotics is going to be the big story of the next five years.

Tandy Trower, general manager of the MS Robotics Group, predicted that his three-year-old department, which operates like a start-up inside Microsoft, will go from a quiet unit to a major revenue source within five years.

That will happen, he said, because the industry is quickly moving from one that mostly supplies giant robotic machines to factories and manufacturing plants to an industry that is creating robotic aids and companions in our homes.

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"It's becoming more than big robots that don't interact with people," said Trower.

"We're looking at more personal robots. Robotics is evolving to something you will engage with and that will serve you in your life in some way."

And Microsoft is hoping to develop the software that will run the machines that will keep us company, play with us and even take care of the country's growing elderly population.

Trower led us on a tour of Microsoft's robotics facility. The company isn't making the robots themselves, but it is making a robotics software platform.

During the tour, Microsoft engineers showed off robots - some already on the market and some that are still in the works - as examples of changes that are afoot in the industry.

Over the next 11 pages, we'll bring you images of those robots, and what significance Microsoft Robotics Group attributes to them.

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  1. Inside Microsoft's Robotics Group
  2. Robots as toys
  3. May the force be with you
  4. Understanding the fundamentals
  5. A PC on wheels
  6. Pink cheeks and a bright yellow smile
  7. First simulate, then build
  8. Back of the net
  9. Two wheels good, two arms better
  10. Caring for the elderly
  11. Here to help
  12. Life as a learning experience