Microsoft Unveils Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008

At the RoboDevelopment Conference and Expo in Santa Clara, Calif., Microsoft Corp. today announced the general availability of Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 (Microsoft RDS), the newest version of its robotics programming platform. Microsoft RDS includes a simple programming model to support building asynchronous applications, a set of visual authoring and simulation tools to aid in application development, and tutorials and sample code to help developers get started.

This is Microsoft’s third major release of Microsoft RDS and builds upon its previous versions, which have received support throughout the robotics community, from students to researchers and commercial developers. More than 250,000 copies of Microsoft RDS have been downloaded and more than 60 hardware and software companies support or use the platform as a part of their products.

“This latest release is a demonstration of Microsoft’s continued commitment and investment in supporting the emerging new robotics community,” said Tandy Trower, general manager of the Microsoft Robotics Group. “We have used the very positive response to enhance what we offer, in hopes that it will continue to provide a common ground and catalyst for the future of personal robotics.”

Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 includes enhancements in the following areas:

  • 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. Together, these improvements will result in faster applications and more efficient use of processor performance.
  • 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. Developers also will have greater flexibility when compiling their programs.
  • 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, which make it easier for developers to create their own simulated models and environments.
  • 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. New support for custom message transports increases development choices.

Development Platform for the Robotics Community

A primary objective of Microsoft RDS is to provide a common ground that creates opportunities for greater contributions and participation from across the diverse community of robotics developers and hardware and software vendors. ABB, a leading supplier of industrial robots and robotics software, is among the first companies to take advantage of this opportunity by releasing a connectivity package known as ABB Connect to Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 (ACM).ACM creates a virtual environment for educational purposes, with the goal of teaching robotics students at universities to design and implement virtual robotics. The package also will contain all the services needed to build a complete virtual robot controller.

“Generation Y students approach their education in a unique manner, based on intuition and innovation. ABB Connect gives these students tools to experiment with creative robot designs in a virtual world,” said Bertil Thorvaldsson, product manager, ABB. “This is the beginning of a very exciting future for robotics. We’re eager to see what students create and to be working with Microsoft in developing this new frontier.”

Microsoft RDS also opens the doors to new opportunities for companies new to the robotics community, such as Dassault Systèmes (DS) SolidWorks Corp., the world’s leading supplier of 3-D CAD technology. “It’s important that design intent be transferred into the robot development process,” said Fielder Hiss, director of product management at DS SolidWorks. “This first-of-its-kind partnership incorporates SolidWorks models into the Microsoft RDS environment, allowing developers to simulate a robot’s operation in the physical world and correct any errors early in the process.”

Licensing, Pricing and Availability

The new release also offers improved licensing options by replacing its formal noncommercial and commercial licenses with three editions: a Standard Edition for professional developers, an Academic Edition for students and educational researchers, and an Express Edition for hobbyists and casual users. While with previous versions, the user was allowed to distribute only 200 copies of the Concurrency and Coordination Runtime (CCR) and Decentralized Software Services (DSS) runtimes, each license of the new Standard and Academic editions permits the user to distribute an unlimited number of copies of the CCR and DSS runtimes. Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 Standard Edition is available for $499.95 (U.S.) and is available here, or from Microsoft’s Volume Licensing program starting in February 2009. Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 Express Edition will be available for no charge and downloadable from here. More information about the release and distribution of Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 Academic Edition is available here.

More information about the differences between the Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 editions from the perspective of features and licensing is available here.

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