Microsoft has launched an open robotics competition and website for hobbyists and students, as well as professional developers. RoboChamps.com asks entrants to develop code for six different competitions in a simulated robotics environment. The virtual robots will compete online in a 3D environment based on Microsoft's April 2008 updated Robotics Developer Studio package.
Would-be robot programmers will be able to download a non-commercial version of the developer toolkit for free. This takes away much of the cost and some of the complexity by replacing hardware robots with virtual, software robots.
The robots will be pitted against each other in six competitions, including navigating a maze, exploring the surface of Mars and remotely piloting a car around a city street. Other competitions will include Sumo wrestling, search and rescue, and the design of a new robotics competition. Microsoft will fly the finalists to its Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles in October to compete in a final competition with real robots.
Prizes include the ability to win real robots! Note that the official rules limit the age of competitors to people 18 years and older. This means high school seniors and teachers, college students and professors and hobbiest can compete. Anyone however is welcome to use the site as a great jumping off point to learn the step-by-step process to build and test robots with user friendly videos, tutorials, labs, and links.