Among the many remarkable innovations emerging out of the robotics industry, from surveillance robots that can defuse roadside bombs to robotic arms that perform surgeries, one persistent challenge has been the lack of a common development platform that would allow developers to easily create robotic applications for varied hardware platforms.
Today, Microsoft Corp. is closing this gap with the release of Microsoft Robotics Studio, a new Windows-based development environment for creating robotic software for a wide variety of hardware platforms. Microsoft also introduced a new third-party partner program featuring Microsoft Robotics Studio-enabled applications, services and robots from independent software vendors, service providers, hardware component vendors and robot manufacturers. Already more than 30 third-party companies have pledged support for the new robotics development and runtime platform, which is available for download and evaluation here.
The Microsoft Robotics Studio environment is an end-to-end, scalable and extensible robotics development platform that includes the following:
A visual programming language that enables nonprogrammers to easily program robots using a drag-and-drop environment
A 3-D tool that simulates robotics applications in physics-based virtual environments, using the licensed PhysX™ engine from AGEIA™ Technologies Inc.
A lightweight, services-oriented runtime that enables applications to communicate with a wide variety of hardware
With Microsoft Robotics Studio, robotics applications 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), which are free to download, as well as Microsoft IronPython. Third-party languages that support the Microsoft Robotics Studio services-based architecture are also supported.
For hobbyists, students and academics, Microsoft Robotics Studio is available to license free of charge. Commercial robot developers interested in generating revenue from applications, services and robots based on Microsoft Robotics Studio can license the development platform starting at $399. Full licensing details are available at the Microsoft Robotics Studio Web site.