Microsoft announced this year’s upgrade to its platform for designing robotics on Tuesday, adding both internal and external performance tweaks, some new visual programming tools and a bump in cost of about $100. In keeping with the rest of the company’s naming convention, the upgrade to Microsoft Robotics Toolkit 1.5, which came out in 2007, is now Microsoft Robotics Toolkit 2008.
Tandy Trower, General Manager of Microsoft Robotics, below lists the improvements to the application:
? Better internal performance. “We tuned the core runtime engine so that performance for message throughput, service loading and application performance is anywhere from 1.5 to 3 times faster,” says Trower.
? Better external performance. “It’s now easier for developers to tune the performance themselves,” says Trower. “We provide granularity for how two components talk to each other.” For instance, when different devices communicate, they can send information about the state of all their components. In the new version, developers can tweak the application to deliver incremental information, such as the movement of a joystick beyond a particular range, not just any movement.
? New visual programming tools. The toolkit already supports Visual Studio
, but Microsoft has added a new visual programming suite specifically for robotics that allows developers to drag and drop modules that relate to various mechanisms within a robotics system, such as arms, wheels or joysticks. The new visual programming tool also allows developers to use this drag-and-drop capability to connect services across a distributed network, using the toolkit’s DSS
(decentralized software services) capability.
? 3D simulation tool. The toolkit’s Visual Simulation Environment (VSE) now includes the ability to record and play back simulations. It 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.
? New import capabilities. The robotics toolkit can now import 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.
? New connectivity. Concurrent with Microsoft’s release, industrial robot supplier ABB
is releasing a connectivity package called ABB Connect. This creates a virtual environment that enables students to design and implement virtual robotics. (Kuka
already offers a similar connectivity tool for the toolkit.) The Microsoft Robotics Studio 2008 is now available in two versions. The Professional version, which includes the right to distribute unlimited copies of runtime applications, costs $499.95, about $100 more than version 1.5. The Express version, a subset of the Professional version which targets students, is available through a free download.
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