Once a Sarcos robot collects the data, that's where the cloud comes in.
Microsoft's sales team courts industrial companies like Sarcos with its Azure platform, and has built a lab in its Redmond, Washington, headquarters where companies can take their products and work with Microsoft to get everything connected to the cloud, Wolff said.
But Microsoft is not the only cloud provider vying to break into the industrial space.
"While I am sure that [Microsoft] is positioning itself for growth in the manufacturing sector, there are other options — and there are many manufacturing customers that are using those options," said Crawford Del Prete, marketing research agency IDC's chief research officer. "I think the real value for MSFT is in the developer networks, and in their ability to attract developers from industries to Azure."
IDC's Bob Parker added that Microsoft's team "are far from the only suitable (or even the best) option in manufacturing."
As money pours into industrial projects across the United States, competition to win cloud contracts could get fierce.
"We're at the beginning of something that is going to grow much much bigger over the next 10 years. Some places will be quite affected by automation," said Robert Seidl, managing partner at Motus Ventures, a Bay Area firm that invests in transportation, robotics and urban planning. "There's a very large market opportunity in automotive. Then more broadly, the kinds of things that happen in technology. Not just driving and people-moving, but warehouses, packing and unpacking, and delivery, inspection in oil and gas, infrastructure inspection."
Seidl said he's not counting on an infrastructure boom to boost his portfolio. Plus, he said, there's a limited window: As computers get smaller and more powerful, more data can be crunched directly by the robots themselves.
"I think it's worth being cautious about funding [until it] actually happens. American governments have been notoriously underfunded when it comes to infrastructure," Seidl said. "We always tell our founders, 'Do not rely on other start-ups as customers, and don't rely on the government as your only customers. Funding can evaporate if there is an election.' That's a challenge for start-ups."