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12/14/2006
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Microsoft Launches Its First Robotics Toolkit

More than 30 companies have already pledged support for the new development and runtime platform, the company said.

Microsoft has released its first toolkit for building robotics software, an area of customized development that remains a tedious process.

The Robotics Studio is a Windows-based development environment for building software for a variety of hardware platforms. In releasing the toolkit Tuesday, Microsoft introduced a third-party partner program that features applications, services, and robots. More than 30 companies have already pledged support for the new development and runtime platform, the company said.

Robotics Studio includes a drag-and-drop development environment, a 3-D tool that simulates robotics applications in physics-based virtual environments, and a lightweight, services-oriented runtime that enables software to communicate with a variety of hardware. The 3-D engine, called PhysX, was licensed from AGEIA Technologies.

Rapid application development tools are rare in the robotics industry. Without standards for even fundamental software routines, developers must write code from scratch and customize it to the hardware. Microsoft seeks to address this problem. "Microsoft Robotics Studio is our response to requests from many hobbyist, academic, and commercial robotics developers," said Tandy Trower, general manager of the Microsoft Robotics Group, in a statement.

The toolkit lets developers use Microsoft Visual C#, Visual Basic, and IronPython programming languages. Some third-party languages also are supported. Robotics Studio is available free of charge for personal and academic use. For commercial applications, the product starts at $399 per developer.

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