Friday, April 25, 2008

Why business users should grab a copy of Microsoft’s new robotics toolkit

"Businesses have discovered that the Microsoft Robotics Studio includes technology that is suited for programming multicore, distributed systems. “In the Microsoft Robotics Studio, you see the new programming model we are creating at Microsoft,” Trower said.

Ultimately, Microsoft is planning to make CCR part of Visual Studio itself and possibly even part of the Common Language Runtime (CLR).

Tandy Trower: “We’re working with cloud-based services under (Chief Software Architect Ray) Ozzie and other teams inside Microsoft,” Trower said. “Half our time these days is in these (internal) integration efforts. We are talking to Microsoft about integrating into their (services) platforms.”

And this is just the beginning folks...

Read the article

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 CTP

Microsoft has released a CTP on the Robotics Studio, called the Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 CTP April: "Microsoft announces the first Community Technical Preview (CTP) of Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008. The preview contains a large number of new features and improvements including increased runtime performance, improved security management, support for distributed language integrated queries (LINQ), support for creating applications that run on multiple DSS nodes, and many new features in the Visual Simulation Environment."

Since I've just bought the book Programming Microsoft Robotics Studio by Sara Morgan from MS Press, I'll stick with the 1.5 refresh version for now.

It also looks like there is some progress made with extracting the DSS and CCR and incorporating them into other frameworks. I won't be surprised if these components find their way into the .NET Framework pretty soon.


Friday, November 30, 2007

LEGO Mindstorms and Microsoft Robotics Studio

For some time now I wanted to buy a LEGO Mindstorms NXT kit. Getting my feet wet with Microsoft Robotics Studio was something I've been wanting to do for a long time.

With the Robotics Framework Microsoft tries to establish a common platform for robotics. Right now, a lot of the hardware and software of a robot is specific for a device, say a robot arm. The robot arm itself needs to be accessed in a specific, non-standard way and the microcontroller (uC) controlling it has to be programmed, based on the type of uC and programming languages supported and preferred. This combination leads a highly compartmentalized environment, where exchange of parts and logic can only be accomplished at great costs.

In short, in the field of robotics is a shortage of standards and a common platform.

Microsoft compares this to the beginnings of the Personal Computer, where similar difficulties were encountered. This has been solved by the introduction of a common platform, the OS, where device manufacturers could write drivers to get their devices working on that platform and developers could write software for that same platform, controlling these devices. Also, because of that common platform, interchangeability of devices and software was improved significantly. For instance, if you need a new webcam, you just buy one at the shop, plug in the webcam and -in some cases- install the driver manually from cd if Windows doesn't recognize it.

Microsoft Robotics Studio is still in it's infant stages, but has already seen extensive use in the DARPA Challenge and is growing rapidly.

It is worth checking out Robotics Studio, if not for the robotics, perhaps the Concurrency and Coordination Runtime might interest you.It deals with a lot of issues also found in SOA architectures and could provide you with a pleasant environment to learn from.

So what about the LEGO Mindstorms NXT kit? I recently bought it and am looking forward to play with it! As closing statement, two links, one about a LEGO Mindstorms Warehouse project, where Mindstorms is used in combination with the Robotics Studio and Microsoft Biztalk(!) to build a warehouse to scale. Also a blog entry about the usage of Robotics Studio, with a bit of video.

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