Microsoft Robotics Studio October Community Tech Preview (CTP)

Today, I read on Mikehall’s Embedded WEblog (doesn’t anyone take the weekend off anymore?) that the Microsoft Robotics Studio October Community Tech Preview (CTP) is available for download. According to the Microsoft Robotics Studio Blog, the new “release gets around the problem of Managed DirectX 2.0 expiring October 5 by moving to the new XNA framework. It also contains many improvements for interacting with LEGO NXT and iRobot Roomba as well as several other features.”

Here are some of the new features of the Microsoft Robotics Studio October 2006 CTP:

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New Simulation Support

  • New XNA framework.
  • New support for simulating and controlling cameras, either one active at a time, or multiple concurrent camera rendering from different perspectives.
  • Simulation Tutorial 2 expanded to include a LEGO NXT, plus a real-time simulation webcam mounted on the Pioneer P3DX
  • Support for Xbox 360 wired gamepad controllers enabling you to control the simulation camera view.
  • Improved support for .OBJ file format (support for .X files has been removed).

Improved Robot Support

  • LEGO NXT – support automatic download of the program loaded on the LEGO NXT brick to facilitate communication with MSRS authored program. Now once you just set the BlueTooth connection between the PC and the LEGO NXT and you can just run the application. Also added support for access to some the advanced commands that are available for the NXT.
  • iRobot Roomba – support for a drive service and a contact sensor service for the Roomba, making it easier to program for the Roomba.

Improved Visual Programming Language

  • Ability to use simple operators (in addition to C style) for the Calculate activity and values are now automatically converted to strings if your connection expects a string.
  • Toolbar for common items, visible grid options, and debug support has been improved.
  • Improved services to make them more accessible and added a new string function service and a URL Launcher.

New Devices Services

  • Enhanced support for DX9 (DirectInput) controllers.
  • Support for Xbox 360 (XInput) controllers.

Improved CCR and DSS Runtime

  • Doubled message throughput within node (between services) and between nodes.
  • XML footprint has been reduced by half.
  • Peak message throughput on multiprocessor machines is now close to 90,000 SOAP messages per second, between services on the same node, and 2,500 messages between nodes (using TCP or HTTP, full serialization).
  • New CCR functionality for throttling task scheduling, greatly reducing code required for common robotic scenarios:
    • Throttling based on dispatcher queue size (keep last N items or throttle if queue is full)
    • Throttling based on scheduling (tasks/second)

Improved Documentation and References

  • Updated some of the UI for various services to make them more responsive and easier to interpret.

Improved Setup and Installation of Gadgets

  • The security settings for gadgets is now done automatically using an ActiveX object that after prompting the user for permission sets the right code access permissions for running gadgets within Internet Explorer.