At the RoboDevelopment Conference and Expo in Santa Clara, California, Microsoft released the new version of Microsoft Developer Studio 2008 (Microsoft RDS), the latest version of the robotics programming platform and the third major release in two years. The toolkit allows developers, whether professional or hobbyists, to create software applications that run on robots.
In the new version RDS 2008, there are now several new features, including:
• Increased runtime performance. Performance is improved 1.5 to three times faster in message throughput between services, and services now load two times faster. Developers can now also define more specific message communication between services, reducing network utilization and optimizing the processing of data.
• Improvements to the Visual Programming Language (VPL) tool. The simple drag-and-drop-based visual programming tool now includes a simple method for defining and configuring distributed applications, making it easier to create applications that can run across networked devices.
• Improvements to the Visual Simulation Environment (VSE) tool. VSE now includes the ability to record and play back simulations, which allows for easier review of simulation experiences. VSE also adds a new floor-plan editor to simplify the definition of interior structures, and three new sample simulation environments (apartment, outdoor and urban) that enable developers to better test their robot applications. Another new feature is support for importing content from DS SolidWorks® 3-D computer-aided design (CAD) software and Microsoft trueSpace 3-D modeling software.
• Greater development flexibility. This new release provides support for both Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 and Visual Studio 2008, which makes it accessible to a broad audience of developers. Improved support for running VPL and VSE on 64-bit Windows platforms provides more flexible installation options.
Along with the new release, ABB, a supplier of industrial robots and robotics software, is offering a connectivity package known as ABB Connect to Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 (ACM). ACM lets robotics students work in a virtual environment in order to design and implement virtual robotics. The package contains all the services needed to build a complete virtual robot controller.
Challenges for Robotics Devs
So now that you have the software, what can you do with it? Visit RoboChamps, of course! At Robochamps, there are a series of challenges for developers which are based in simulation, thus removing the barriers to entry that normally exist when writing code for robots…things like cost and deep hardware knowledge, for example. RoboChamps is built on top of the simulation functionality provided in Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008, which means that participants can program their robots using the .NET languages they are already familiar with.
For an example of one of the challenges you could compete in, check out The Mars Rover Challenge, where you get to navigate Mars collecting data.
Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 Standard Edition ($499.95 U.S.) is available at http://www.microsoft.com/robotics. Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 Express Edition will be available for no charge and downloadable from http://www.microsoft.com/robotics.