"Microsoft sees great potential in robotics," says Tandy Trower, general manager of the Microsoft Robotics Group at Microsoft. The company presented its community technology preview (CTP) of the Windows-based Robotics Studio development platform at RoboBusiness Conference and Exposition 2006, where RoboticsConnection showed a tracked Windows XP-based robot using one of its Serializer .NET Robot Controller boards (see the figure). A range of companies has announced support for the Robotics Studio, including Lego, CoroWare, Kuka, and Whitebox Robotics.
The studio is an end-to-end development platform that incorporates sophisticated 3D simulation. Ageia is providing its PhysX simulation support found in many 3D games (see "Virtually Real" at www.electronicdesign.com, ED Online 12541). Ageia also has a PCI hardware accelerator that can speed up even very complex simulations.
Microsoft's platform is built on the .NET Framework and Visual Studio Express languages like C# in addition to the new IronPython 1.0 Beta 1. It incorporates a visual programming tool. Robots may run Microsoft operating systems, but they can run other operating systems too. Remote and autonomous robot development is supported as well.
The Robotics Studio CTP is available as a free download. Pricing and a production
version are expected at the end of 2006.