Microsoft Robotics Studio Provides Common Ground for Robotics Innovation

PITTSBURGH— June 20, 2006 — Today at 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 community technology preview of the Microsoft Robotics Studio is available for download at http://msdn.microsoft.com/robotics.

“Microsoft, together with the upcoming LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT, will help further amplify the impact of robotics,” said Søren Lund, director of LEGO MINDSTORMS at the LEGO Group. “The MINDSTORMS robotics toolset has enjoyed a strong community of users since 1998, and the launch of our next-generation platform includes many built-in features that further the community’s ability to take MINDSTORMS programming out of the box. In combination with Microsoft Robotics Studio, PC users will have a sophisticated tool that will further extend the powerful NXT hardware and software to an even wider range of developers who wish to create advanced applications for their LEGO robots.”

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 these:

  • 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.

  • Lightweight services-oriented runtime. Microsoft Robotics Studio provides a 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.

  • Scalable, extensible platform. The Microsoft Robotics Studio programming model can be applied for a variety of robot hardware platforms, enabling users to transfer their learning skills across platforms. Third parties can also extend the functionality of the platform by providing additional libraries and services. Both remote (PC-based) and autonomous (robot-based) execution scenarios can be developed using a selection of programming languages, including those in Microsoft Visual Studio® and Microsoft Visual Studio Express languages (Visual C#® and Visual Basic® .NET), JScript® and Microsoft IronPython 1.0 Beta 1, and third-party languages that conform to its services-based architecture.

Broad Industry Support Shown for Early Technical Preview

At RoboBusiness, Microsoft and several industry partners offered working models and demonstrations of Robotics Studio technology in action:

  • CoroWare Inc., an Innova Holdings company, showed its Surveyor 3000, a mobile service robot that can be remotely operated or programmed to run semiautonomously.

  • KUKA Robot Group showed a lightweight robot prototype controlled via a remote joystick service, using Microsoft Robotics Studio-based services.

  • Robosoft showed its six-wheeled robuROC6 robot, capable of autonomous navigation across difficult terrain, which highlighted how a distributed architecture, built from its robuBOX™ robotics core, could be easily controlled via the Microsoft Robotics Studio runtime.

  • RoboticsConnection featured a tracked Windows XP-based robot utilizing one of its Serializer™ .NET Robot Controller boards, via Microsoft Robotics Studio and Serializer services.

  • White Box Robotics Inc. showed a telepresence scenario featuring its 914 PC-BOT. The 914 was controlled via a Robotics Studio-driven Web-based interface, accessible remotely over a network.

“KUKA and Microsoft have enjoyed a strong relationship for many years,” said Bernd Liepert, CEO of KUKA Robot Group. “With the introduction of the Robotics Studio, we see the possibilities for enabling completely new business scenarios in new market segments and for new products in our current markets.”

In addition, Microsoft showed working Microsoft Robotics Studio demos from fischertechnik, LEGO Group, MobileRobots Inc., Parallax Inc. and Phidgets Inc. Before RoboBusiness, Microsoft previewed its technology and architecture with a variety of other third parties that are considering the new software for their robotics application development, including ABB, InTouch Health, Lynxmotion Inc., RoboDynamics Corp., Senseta, Trossen Robotics and Ugobe Inc., as well as with many leading universities and research institutes, including Bryn Mawr College, Cornell University, Georgia Tech, Korea Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pisa, University of Southern California, and the University of Washington.

Microsoft Sponsors Carnegie Mellon Center for Innovative Robotics

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, http://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.

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