Microsoft on Wednesday officially released its robot software development environment, aiming to put the company in the center of robotics by licensing out its operating system to hobbyists and companies alike.
Those wishing to use Microsoft Robotics Studio for non-commercial applications can do so free of charge. However, for those wishing to use the application in commercial environments, licensing fees start at $399.
The software would allow even non-programmers to easily design a robot through using a drag and drop interface, Microsoft says. A 3-D tool developed by Ageia Technologies would allow the developer to simulate the actions of their robots.
In addition, the developer would be able to dig deeper into programming if he or she so desires, and use Visual Studio and Visual Studio Express languages for development, as well as Microsoft's IronPython. Some third-party languages would also be supported as well.
So far, the company has signed up more than 30 third-party vendors to support the offering, including robots and services from Lego, iRobot, RoboSoft, RoboticsConnection, Sharp Logic and others. More plan to offer compatibility in the near future.
Microsoft first previewed its Windows-based robotics platform back in June of this year. The company believes that there is great potential in robotics, and an easier method of creating new robotic applications was necessary.
The Robotics Studio is a result of that work. With improvements in processors and lower-cost sensors, development in robotics is expected to soar, it argued. If early interest in Robotics Studio is any indication, Microsoft may be right. The preview version has already been downloaded over 100,000 times.
Analysts believe that the offering will help to spur new development in robotics, and bring new ideas into the fold, much like Microsoft is aiming to do with XNA Game Studio Express. Microsoft's partners in the robotic field have also applauded the move.
"Microsoft will help us extend the reach of the iRobot Roomba Open Interface to a broader community of developers," said Helen Greiner, co-founder and chairwoman of iRobot.
In addition to announcing the official availability of the Robotics Studio, Microsoft also said it would be a primary sponsor of RoboCup 2007, which aims to build a team of humanoid robots that would be able to defeat the world champion soccer team by 2050.