Okay, picture this… it’s 2016 and your Honda XT3 SE Personal Robotic Assistant (I’m officially staking claim to this futuristic term – minus the “Honda”) walks into the dining room after dinner and asks, as usual, “Is there anything else I can get for you before I clear your plate, sir?” You say “no” but the PRA continues asking, becoming increasingly belligerent. You ask, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, the standard diagnostic question – “What’s wrong?” All you get is the BFOD… the Blank Face Of Death.
In case you haven’t caught on yet, Microsoft is getting in to the robotics business – at least the software end of it. So now my stupid joke makes sense (BSOD)! Enter Microsoft Robotics Studio, which “offers [an] end-to-end robotics development environment … for hobbyist, academic and commercial developers.” Basically it’s BOT-DOS (boy, I’m a roll – I should get kick-backs from Webster).
Trower [general manager of Microsoft’s new robotics group] says Robotics Studio is intended to help the robot industry “bootstrap itself,” the same way Microsoft’s first DOS operating system provided a standard platform that other software writers were then able to use to write a host of applications, such as spreadsheets and word-processing programs, that eventually made PCs indispensable.
Trower believes that PCs and robots are converging — and that Microsoft must invest in robotics if it wants to be a player in personal computing five to ten years from now. “Your PC is getting up off the desktop and beginning to interact in the same environment where you live in new ways, using cameras and sensors and speech technology and a variety of other advanced technologies,” he says. “This is the direction that PCs are evolving.”
Microsoft showcased this programming environment at the RoboBusiness Conference and Exposition 2006 (official press release).
“Microsoft, together with the upcoming LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT, will help further amplify the impact of robotics,” said Søren Lund, director of LEGO MINDSTORMS at the LEGO Group. “The MINDSTORMS robotics toolset has enjoyed a strong community of users since 1998, and the launch of our next-generation platform includes many built-in features that further the community’s ability to take MINDSTORMS programming out of the box. In combination with Microsoft Robotics Studio, PC users will have a sophisticated tool that will further extend the powerful NXT hardware and software to an even wider range of developers who wish to create advanced applications for their LEGO robots.”
We’re working to get a demo of the Lego Mindstorms NXT system so I’ll follow up with a thorough review of that product and also how well it integrates with MS Robotics Studio. Stay tuned!