JUNE 21--At the recent RoboBusiness Conference and Exposition 2006, Microsoft Corp. showcased the community technology preview (CTP) of a new Windows-based environment for academic, hobbyist, and commercial developers to easily create robotic applications for a wide variety of computing platforms. In addition, early adopter companies, universities, and research institutes offered demos and provided support for the new Microsoft Robotics Studio development platform. The CTP of the Microsoft Robotics Studio is available for download at msdn.microsoft.com/robotics.
Today's improved processors and lower-cost sensors are fueling the development of robotics applications for a broad variety of devices, from household vacuums to unmanned vehicles for search and rescue missions. Microsoft Robotics Studio provides a common development platform for robotics innovators to overcome one of their biggest remaining hurdles: the fragmentation of the robotics industry caused by today's incompatible platforms.
"Microsoft sees great potential in robotics, and we are excited to deliver our first CTP of Robotics Studio, making it easier to create robotic applications across a wide variety of hardware, users, and scenarios," said Tandy Trower, general manager of the Microsoft Robotics Group at Microsoft. "We've reached out to a broad range of leading robotics companies and academics early on in the development process and are thrilled with the positive response from the community."
Key features and benefits of the Microsoft Robotics Studio environment include an end-to-end robotics development platform. Microsoft Robotics Studio includes a visual programming tool, making it easy to create and debug robot applications. Robotics Studio enables developers to generate modular services for hardware and software, allowing users to interact with robots through Web-based or Windows-based interfaces. Developers can also simulate robotic applications using realistic 3-D models; Microsoft has licensed the PhysX engine from AGEIA, a pioneer in hardware-accelerated physics, enabling real-world physics simulations with robot models. The PhysX simulations can also be accelerated using AGEIA hardware.
Another feature is lightweight services-oriented runtime. Using a .NET-based concurrency library, it makes asynchronous application development simple. The services-oriented, message-based architecture makes it simple to access the state of a robot's sensors and actuators with a Web browser, and its composable model enables the building of high-level functions using simple components and providing for reusability of code modules as well as better reliability and replaceability.
Microsoft's support for advanced robotics was also in evidence at RoboBusiness when Carnegie Mellon University announced plans for a Center for Robotics Innovation. Established with funding and support from the Microsoft Robotics Group, the center will operate a Web site www.cir.ri.cmu.edu for hobbyists, academics, and commercial companies to share robotics ideas, technology, and software. The new center will open by late 2006.