Robotics Developer Studio 2008 CTP

Redmond unveils new CTP of its Robotics Developer Studio 2008.

Microsoft says it's making strides with its forthcoming tooling platform for developing robotics applications. Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 (RDS 08) may appeal to a small segment of developers, but key technologies could impact the broader Redmond developer community, according to Microsoft Robotics Group General Manager Tandy Trower. Microsoft unveiled the third CTP at the RoboBusiness conference in Pittsburgh.

Complex Machines
RDS 08 promises to significantly improve runtime performance, from 150 percent to 300 percent, according to Trower. "It's not the monolithic, single-threaded model that people have normally used for robots. Instead this is a more asynchronous, distributed approach to programming."

Trower says RDS 08 will enable developers to write code and routines that rely on asynchronous message passing, providing for a more distributed runtime environment and expanding the potential for future robots to process and act on large volumes of information. RDS 08 adds support for distributed LINQ, intended to enable "advanced filtering and inline processing of sensor data at the source," according to Microsoft.

Robots Go Mainstream
The College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology started deploying Microsoft RDS when version 1.0 shipped back in 2006. At the time, associate professor Tucker Balch hoped the software would enable a Windows-like driver model for robotic sensors and components, freeing developers to work on higher-order tasks.

"It's true that we benefit from the abstraction that Robotics Studio provides. That does save time," says Balch, who expects RDS 08 to streamline programming tasks. "The programming model for how software modules talk to each other is pretty complex and has a steep learning curve. I think that's not really sufficiently documented."

In the meantime, Trower says that the tools and techniques developed in the Robotics Group could end up in mainstream dev products at Microsoft: "You'll see that this year. The core pieces -- the CCR, which is our concurrency coordination runtime and our DSS services, which are its companions that provide the concurrency model across the distributed network. These pieces we actually will ... offer independently as well as in the toolkit, so that people who are interested in using this for [other] applications will be able to do that," Trower says.

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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