Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 (RDS) was released this week at the RoboDevelopment Conference. It is a Windows-based environment for hobbyist, academic and commercial developers to create robotics applications for a variety of hardware platforms. RDS includes a lightweight REST-style, service-oriented runtime, a set of visual authoring and simulation tools, as well as tutorials and sample code to help get started.

Non-programmers can create robot applications using a visual programming environment. You can simulate your robot in three dimensional physics-based environments.

RDS includes a .NET-based REST-style, services-oriented runtime consisting of two components: Concurrency and Coordination Runtime (CCR) and Decentralized Software Services (DSS).

With RDS, robotics applications can be developed using a selection of programming languages, including those in Microsoft Visual Studio® and Microsoft Visual Studio Express® (C# and VB.NET), as well as scripting languages such as Microsoft Iron Python®. Third-party languages that support the RDS services-based architecture are also supported.

This is the third major release of Microsoft RDS and builds upon its previous versions, which have received support throughout the robotics community, including students, researchers and commercial developers.

Microsoft said the latest release of Microsoft RDS also offers improved licensing options by replacing its 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. Each license of the new Standard and Academic editions permits the user to distribute an unlimited number of copies of the CCR and DSS run-times

For more information see Microsoft Robotics. For developer documentation, see Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio on MSDN.

RoboChamps competition

Microsoft recently announced the launch of the RoboChamps Urban Challenge, sponsored by KIA Motors. Similar to the real-world DARPA Urban Challenge, participants will be tasked with programming a robotic car to navigate to a series of checkpoints in an urban environment. The vehicles must obey traffic lights, avoid other cars and stay on the road. The cars must drive autonomously using only the available sensors, i.e. no human intervention is allowed. The first prize is a real car - a KIA Soul! Second prize is $10,000 and third prize is $5,000.

For more information about the RoboChamps Urban Challenge, see RoboChamps.