Microsoft sets up common robotics development platform

Redmond (WA) - While all eyes are on Microsoft for the upcoming Vista and Office 07 product launches, the software giant today made another announcement aimed at a completely new audience - robotics engineers. Microsoft Robotics Studios was released yesterday, which gives developers a universal platform for robotic programming.

According to Microsoft, more than 30 companies have already confirmed support for the new platform, including White Box Robotics, Cerebellum Automation, and interestingly enough, Lego.

The new platform offers a visual programming language that "enables nonprogrammers to easily program robots using a drag-and-drop environment," says Microsoft. There is also support for several other programming languages, including those in Microsoft's programming applications (e.g. Visual Studio, Visual Studio Express, IronPython). Additionally, using Ageia's PhysX engine, developers are given access to a tool that simulates robotic physics in real-time 3D.

Robotic automation and development is an increasingly important trend, all the way from the general consumer side to more important ventures for use in the medical field and overseas in the war in the Middle East. However, says Microsoft, there has historically been no common, universal platform for the creators of these technologies.

Microsoft's Robotic Studio is available as a free download for consumer and educational applications, or for professionals, licensing is available starting at $400.