Category Archives: Robotics


Microsoft Robotics Video Tutorials

If you are into robots, check out the Microsoft’s online video tutorials posted on their Robotics site:

Architecture Overview
This session will go into depth on the underlying Microsoft Robotics Studio services-oriented runtime. Learn how the concurrency library makes asynchronous application development simple, and how the services and message-based architecture make it easy to access the state of a robot’s sensors and actuators with a Web browser.

Visual Programming Language (VPL) 1
Learn about the Microsoft Visual Programming Language, an application development environment designed on a graphical dataflow-based programming model rather than control flow typically found in conventional programming. Using specific examples, you will learn how VPL can be useful for novices with no programming experience, as well as for professional-level robotics application prototyping.

Visual Programming Language (VPL) 2
This session builds on VPL1 and features a more advanced example. It demonstrates how to write a simple autonomous behavior for a robot, illustrates how to factor the behavior into multiple VPL activities, and shows how to work with data collection from robots. This session also outlines how to run the same VPL program in simulation and on a real robot.

Learn about the Microsoft Robotics Studio Simulation environment, a 3-D tool that simulates robotics applications in physics-based virtual environments, using the licensed PhysX(TM) engine from AGEIA(TM) Technologies Inc. This session will provide an introduction to the simulation runtime, show how to compose entities with simulation services and create a simulation environment. It will also show how to simulate joints and articulated arms.

Robotics Tutorials
This session, based on the robotics tutorials included with Microsoft Robotics Studio, will show how to create a service and coordinate between services. It will also provide an overview of manifests, contracts used to specify robotics hardware.

Services Tutorials
This session, based on the services tutorials included with Microsoft Robotic Studio, will provide an overview of how to create a service, update the state of a service and persist the state of a service.

Controlling Simulated Robots Using VB.NET
This session will provide an overview on working with Microsoft Robotics Studio using Visual Basic .NET. Learn how to create a windows forms project and a user interface to drive a robot. It will also show how to start the simulation environment and connect the UI to perform the correct actions.

Controlling Simulated Robots Using Iron Python
This session will provide an overview on working with Microsoft Robotics Studio using Iron Python. Learn how to create a windows forms project and a user interface to drive a robot. It will also show how to start the simulation environment and connect the UI to perform the correct actions.

Microsoft Robotics Studio

Last week, Microsoft released Robotics Studio, which is a Windows(R)-based development environment for creating robotic software for a wide variety of hardware platforms. The Microsoft Robotics Studio environment is an end-to-end, scalable and extensible robotics development platform that includes the following:

  • A visual programming language that enables nonprogrammers to easily program robots using a drag-and-drop environment
  • A 3-D tool that simulates robotics applications in physics-based virtual environments, using the licensed PhysX(TM) engine from AGEIA(TM) Technologies Inc.
  • A lightweight, services-oriented runtime that enables applications to communicate with a wide variety of hardware

With Microsoft Robotics Studio, robotics applications can be developed using a selection of programming languages, including those in Microsoft Visual Studio(R) and Microsoft Visual Studio Express languages (Visual C#(R) and Visual Basic(R)), which are free to download, as well as Microsoft IronPython. Third-party languages that support the Microsoft Robotics Studio services-based architecture are also supported.

For hobbyists, students and academics, Microsoft Robotics Studio is available to license free of charge. Commercial robot developers interested in generating revenue from applications, services and robots based on Microsoft Robotics Studio can license the development platform starting at $399.

Microsoft Robotics Studio is now compatible with applications, services and robots from the following companies: CoroWare Inc., fischertechnik, iRobot, KUKA Robot Group, Larsen & Toubro InfoTech Ltd., the LEGO Group, Lynxmotion Inc., Parallax Inc., Phidgets Inc., RoboDynamics Corp., Robosoft, RoboticsConnection, Senseta, Sharp Logic, Surveyor and WhiteBox Robotics Inc. In addition, many leading companies from around the world have joined the Microsoft Robotics Studio Partner Program with plans to ship compatible applications, services and robots in the future. They include Braintech Inc., Camelot Robotics ApS, Cerebellum, ED Co. Ltd., Graupner, Hanulkid Co. Ltd., InTouch Health, JADI Inc., LG CNS, MicroInfinity, Mostitech Inc., RE2 Inc., RidgeSoft LLC, Robo3, SRI, VIA Technologies Inc. and Yujin Robot.

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WiMo Robot Returns

I forgot all about WiMo the robot until I visited the Windows Mobile Team Blog today. It appears Brian has been enjoying the summer. Excuse me Brian, but geeks are not allowed outside. It’s the law. For those of you who don’t remember, WiMo is a robot powered by a smartphone (Windows Mobile of course).

WiMo Robot army
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Here are some of the things that has been added to the WiMo web site:

  • Assembly instructions for WiMo NXT
  • Updated source code — one code base for all WiMos
  • MSDN Style Documentation on the WiMo APIs
  • A short video that demonstrates WiMo NXT

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.

RoboDevelopment Conference and Exposition

The RoboDevelopment Conference and Exposition, an international technical design and development event for personal, service and mobile robotics industry, will be held December 13-14, 2006 at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara California.

The development of robotic technology requires the mastery of multiple disciplines — software development, as well as mechanical and electrical engineering. Embedded and real-time constraints, along with integration issues, compound the difficulty of building such systems. The RoboDevelopment Conference and Exposition will provide technical professionals with the specialized information they need to build the next generation of advanced robotics systems, as well as offer solution providers serving the robotics market an unprecedented and unique, sales, branding and business development opportunity.

The personal, service and mobile robotics market is in a growth phase similar to that of the early days of the PC industry. Much like the PC industry, for the robotics market to reach its full potential, technical issues related to the design and development of robotics systems must be addressed. The RoboDevelopment Conference and Exposition provides this young industry with the ideal forum for robotics technical professionals to learn from industry leaders, exchange information with their peers and evaluate the latest tools and techniques for building robotics products and technologies.

Source: RoboDevelopment

WiMo NXT Smartphone Robot

Brian over on the Windows Mobile Team Blog has created a cousin for his WiMo robots. He built his new robot, WiMo NXT, using the Lego Mindstorms NXT.

Like the original WiMo, it talks to the Lego NXT brick via Bluetooth. Most of the code is the same except for the actual protocol used to talk to the Lego NXT Brick. This time around, Brian used the new Microsoft Robot Studio (MSRS) APIs to build WiMo NXT.

WiMo NXT Smartphone Robot

Choromet Humanoid Robot

The Japaneses have done it again. This time they created a humanoid robot that looks like a Transformer. The robot is called “HRP-2m Choromet,” or “Choromet,” for short.

Choromet humanoid robot

Chromet is 35 cm high, weighs 1.5 kg, and has 20 degrees of freedom. It has triaxial force/torque sensors on its legs and accelerometer and gyroscope on its trunk, and a small, energy-saving controller developed at AIST that is driven in real-time by Linux (ARTLinux).

Choromet was developed to be small and inexpensive. For this reason, it uses a servomotor for hobby robots. Moreover, its link structure allows it to be made with metal plates, but it was designed so that there would be as little offset as possible in the joint axes. The rigidity of this robot has reached the level where the effectiveness of its motion patterns can be tested at the same level as movement patterns for humanoid robots.

Microsoft Targets Robotics

Microsoft is up to something. Last month Microsoft launched their new Robotics Studio and Robotics Studio Blog. Then yesterday, Microsoft announced the creation of the Institute for Personal Robots in Education (IPRE) in partnership with the College of Computing at Georgia Tech and Bryn Mawr College. The institute is designed to reinvigorate computer science curriculum by delivering robotics technology tailored for teaching purposes, scientifically evaluated for its effectiveness in live teaching situations.

According to Microsoft’s press release, Microsoft will provide the College of Computing at Georgia Tech with $1 million (U.S.) paid over three years to develop — as part of the IPRE — practical new ways to bring robotics technology into the computer science curriculum. Matching Microsoft’s support, an additional $1 million for the institute will be provided by the College of Computing at Georgia Tech and Bryn Mawr College.

In addition, Carnegie Mellon University announced plans for a Center for Robotics Innovation. Guess who is providing funds and support to help establish the center? That’s right, Microsoft.

Microsoft sees an opportunity that other companies aren’t seeing. Could robotics be the next frontier for Microsoft?

Found via Mikehall’s Embedded WEblog.

The WiMo Robot Army

The WiMo robots are breeding. There are now three of them. WiMo is the Windows Mobile Robot created by Brian of the Windows Mobile Team. WiMo uses a Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone as the central “brain” for the robot. The Smartphone communicates to a microcontroller via Bluetooth and also communicates with a Pocket PC via WiFi. The Pocket PC can be used to remotely control WiMo.

Brian posted the lower-level source code, notes, and photos of the process for his WiMo robot on his WiMo web site. As far as I can tell, you don’t need Microsoft’s new Robotics Studio to build WiMo.

WiMo robot