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Microsoft Formally Releases Robotics Software 173

futuresheet writes "Microsoft formally released its robotics software yesterday, giving would-be robot builders a new tool to make them do the things they do. The license for the software is $399, and the 'standard' Pioneer P3DX robot that's made for home use is $40,000. Just the same, if you want to give it a try, it is downloadable for free for non-commercial use, and includes a simulator to try things out on your computer." From the article: "It represents a new effort for the company that has Chairman Bill Gates raving about potential growth in a robotics industry that's already worth an estimated $11 billion a year or more. '[A]s I look at the trends that are now starting to converge, I can envision a future in which robotic devices will become a nearly ubiquitous part of our day-to-day lives,' Gates writes in the January issue of Scientific American. Microsoft is not making robots. Its Robotics Studio is software designed to program the devices to collect data from an array of sensors and perform all manner of functions."
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Microsoft Formally Releases Robotics Software

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  • by udderly ( 890305 ) * on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:38PM (#17241012)
    I for one welcome our new BSoD robot overlords.
  • Oh no... (Score:5, Funny)

    by gentlemen_loser ( 817960 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:40PM (#17241050) Homepage
    And to think I had thought this would all start with Skynet...
    • Cyberdyne Systems Corporation.

      K. Reese
    • This must be how skynet starts.

      That would explain how Skynet was never able to kill a waitress and why it was never smart enough to try and kill that waitress when she was 1 month old.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )
      Not Skynet but Dotnet.
      • by abradsn ( 542213 )
        Please, No! The hilarity of your juvenile humour makes me smirk and almost want to chuckle.
    • And to think I had thought this would all start with Skynet...
      Instead of let the destruction happen you could make it miserably fail. Skynet will be full of "useful" programs for a militar A.I. like minesweeper (Why not? WOPR plays tic-tac-toe), wordpad, Windows Media Player, outlook express and compatible Zune plugins for Internet Explorer 8. If the system don't kill itself probably a teenager script kiddie could do the work.
      Welcome, and good bye, to our Ms-Skynet overlords.
  • .. making robot software easyier to use, and free for non commercial use , with emulator, is a pretty damn good thing.

    I look forwrd to going home and downloading this.

  • by filesiteguy ( 695431 ) <> on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:44PM (#17241160) Homepage
    I just wanted to be the first to ask that... ..mod me down... ..I don't mind.
  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:45PM (#17241184)
    Are the robots shaped like lucee liu?
    • They are shaped like Lucy Liu's kidney.
    • by kjart ( 941720 )

      Are the robots shaped like lucee liu?

      Yes - it wont be long before you can fuck something running Windows, instead of Windows fucking you :)

      • by HiredMan ( 5546 )
        It's already my policy not to put anything I value on a Windows box.

        If you think I'm putting some THAT valuable to me in a Windows box you're very, very, very wrong.

  • We can all see where this will lead...

    Quick! Someone call James Tiberius Kirk - computer killer extraordinaire!!!
    • Quick! Someone call James Tiberius Kirk - computer killer extraordinaire!!!

      All Kirk could do is some stupid "He always lies" and "he always tells the truth" skit, whereupon the robot explodes.

      You might as well just pull a coin from it's ear. This works quite well with MS based robots because of the "Where did you get that coin from, I thought we had already got it all" subroutine, which causes an overload, shuting down the entire power grid.
  • I guess it's now time to invest in robot insurance []...
    • Those insurance companies are slick, you got to read the fine print. If you look closely in Appendix A, Page 19, Paragraph 10, titled Limitations of this Policy you will find this statement:

      This policy shall be uneforceable and all claims will be invalid if damage was caused by any robotic device from Microsoft, or by a robot executing any code designed, developed, marketed or otherwise provided for use in said robot by Microsoft, its' partners or any successors in interest.
  • Wonderful, Now with our new Microsoft enhanced robotic devices, We can use our production line for sending out email marketing materials, and when we get the latest Eastern European "Software" Through our email, we can bring our entire production to a halt instead of just the office computers.

    I cant wait. It will be great.
  • by Freed ( 2178 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:55PM (#17241404)
    Gate's Laws of Robotics (shamelessly stolen from a past /. post)

          1) A robot may not use a non-Microsoft product or through inaction,
          allow a human being to use a non-Microsoft product.

          2) A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such
          orders would conflict with the First Law.

          3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection
          does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
  • by Non-CleverNickName ( 1027234 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:55PM (#17241408)
    ...when you complete your 50m tall Gundam, complete the programming with Robotics Studio, and on the 30th day, you realize that you forgot to activate it using a Genuine MS key...

    The last thing I need is a 50m mobile suit pissed at me for pirating software...
    • by Sj0 ( 472011 )
      Don't worry so much. It'll go on a killing rampage and you'll discover a super cute but ultimately dark and depressed girl with superpowers or a giant mech who will defeat the monster (With your help, because you'll have a mysterious gift for either catalyzing her superpower or driving her mech(No, neither of those were euphamisms for sex, though from a literary point of view they come close a few times), and you'll slowly fall in love. Then the writers will realize they're in the middle of episode 11 and c
  • Now do you see? This is why the MS icon has been kept. Bill's not Borg, he's just very enthusiastic about this platform;-)
    • by kjart ( 941720 )

      Bill's not Borg, he's just very enthusiastic about this platform;-)

      Well, if it's based on Vista, I hope he has at least 2 GB of RAM and a decent video card in there - real world effects are hard to render.

  • Does the software have a InitiateChairTossingDiatribe function available?

  • From an older article which shows Microsoft's intentions []:

    Apparently this is now part of a larger strategy to create more University level students accustomed to using and developing proprietary software. "They have decided that the best way to increase enrollment is to work with universities to incorporate robotics and computer games into the computer science curriculum as class projects where students can exercise their technical skills." The robotics and computer games would be developed using various

  • So much for the anti microsoft tone in all these responses. None of them deails about potential of this stuff, what about a next SDK for this for visual studio hm hint hint... So for the command type people: Hey did anyone got a CRT tube, some linux folks using a command line are trying to make their own version. Actualy there are now running multible sub versions all over the place and they all only listen to typed commands and none of them knows what actualy rules the world, so they started fighting each
    • I'm sure you'd make a lot more sense if you'd ever seen a Linux distro before, instead of accepting the stereotypical "CLI-only" perspective. Some of us even use GUIs now and again, in this scary modern age.
  • I guess the MS Barney robot [] software was "informal"?
  • Brings a whole new meaning to the term Blue Screen of Death.

    "It looks like you're trying to open a jar of pickles. Would you like Microsoft Robot to: 1) Open the jar for you; 2) Merely loosen the jar, leaving final jar configuration details to you; 3) Try a different jar; 4) Install Micrsoft Deli, with pickle support?"

    Butlerian Jihad, here we come...


  • Try some of the resources on the web. The leaf project uses Windows, but is open... as in no cost t/ []

    From the group site:

    Leaf is a robot inspired by the computer game Creatures. One of our members began to develop a desktop simulation of one of these AI creatures called Norns. This particular critter was called Leaf. We decided that Leaf needed a physical body (i.e. robot). This forum is for the design/discussion and kibitzing of the build process.
  • Just in time for my Robonukah [] vacation.
  • Coin Melter (Score:3, Funny)

    by coldtone ( 98189 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @03:15PM (#17241846)
    Time to build my coin melting robot!
  • by s31523 ( 926314 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @03:18PM (#17241900)
    The /. blurb mentions a 40K robot "for home use" but according to the links on the M$ website there are plenty of other compatible robots, like the LEGO Mindstorms [] which has a MSRP of a mere US$ 249.99. With these kind of prices, I think this might be a fun hobby to get the kids into...
  • Who remembers the Heathkit HERO robots of the early 80's?? It was a little pricey but it was WAY under the $40k M$ wants.. Man, I wanted one sooooo bad. Those were really cool. Shame that Heathkit went under, they had some great stuff. I guess people don't care about building projects anymore, look at Rat Smack, they went from a hobbyist supply center to a bling-bling store.

    Anyway, I would be afraid to let a machine that can move about, grasp objects and runs M$
    to roam my house while I'm sleeping. I c
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by King_TJ ( 85913 )
      Yep! I remember the HERO1 robot! When I was in grade school, I eyed one in a Heathkit catalog, and immediately wanted it. (I vaguely recall it selling for somewhere around the $7000-8000 price range in the early 80's?) I also recall that the arm on the top of it was sold as an option, costing a considerable amount extra.

      One guy I knew in grade school told me his brother's school actually purchased a HERO1 robot, and they learned to do some simple programming of it in one of their classes.

      I also remember
  • Why for a $40k robot, but not for those $1.5k to $5k Japanese robots []? Not exactly affordable, but surely more so than a $40k one.
  • why does this overpriced robot that it is for look awfully like the old Hero 2000 bot kit I have sitting in the basement collecting dust?

    $40,000.00... It had better perform sex acts for that price.

    I paid $2500.00 for my HERO 2000 back when they were end of production... inflation did not go that far out of control.
  • $40,000???!!! (Score:4, Informative)

    by KlomDark ( 6370 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @03:30PM (#17242166) Homepage Journal
    What on earth is going to be in the kit that is worth $40,000?? That's insane. You can get a Programmable Logic Controller (Omron or Allen Bradley), several industrial grade servomotors or stepper motors, the motor drive unit, and a pile of sensors/buttons/actuators/etc off ebay for around $2000.

    In 1991 I worked for a company that did industrial automation fabrication and build this relatively large (Around 40x30 feet of machinery) automated cutting/welding system with two MIG welders (One mounted on a track to adjust for different sizes, anywhere from 40 feet to 4 feet and accurate to 1/100th of an inch), and all the raw material handlers to feed parts into the welders, and we had MAYBE $50,000 in hardware costs.

    Even a hard core GE/Fanuc industrial grade CNC control head is no more than $25,000. This thing had better have the capabilities of R2D2.

    Sounds like a complete ripoff.

    And every automation control system I've used, PLC or CNC, has had the development software free with the unit. Only thing you'd have to pay for was the programming console, which has since been reduced to software that runs on Windows, so needing only a serial or USB cable between the two.

    Do I sound really shocked by the price? I am!
    • by aardwolf64 ( 160070 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @03:35PM (#17242276) Homepage
      The original poster reworded the following positive news about the kit to make it sound like this is totally unusable by anyone, in a misguided attempt to mock Microsoft at any cost:
      It includes a simulation program so that even if you don't have a $40,000 Pioneer P3DX robot, you can still program one then set it to work in an on-screen simulator complete with properties such as friction and gravity.

      It was irresponsible to even post something so slanted... but we should all have grown accustomed to that on Slashdot by now.
    • by qbwiz ( 87077 ) *
      And every automation control system I've used, PLC or CNC, has had the development software free with the unit.

      As a note, you have to buy the development software for the Allen Bradley Micrologix series. It's quite annoying to have to spend 2 times more for the software than the PLC (unless you want to pirate it, but we won't go there...).
    • Mod him up, you are exactly right although I prefer the tcp/modbus beckman controllers in any case a linux box, a little python mod bus and you can build some pretty sophisticated stuff.
    • by TERdON ( 862570 )
      you have to pay for Omron development tools as well (unless the salesmen is trying to sell you some extra hardware so they throw some software in "for free".). The cost is around $100 though, for the complete suit of tools (every single one they have available, including some of the really advanced ones. AFAIK you can buy parts of that suit for part of the cost...
    • by Grond ( 15515 )
      This is what you get: Pioneer P3DX []

      Anyone has used player/stage will recognize this as sort of the 'default' robot that the simulator uses.
      It's a two wheel differential-drive base that uses sonar for range finding and object detection. On top you can mount all manner of sensors and actuators.

      I have no idea if they really cost that much, though. By implication from this page [] and this page [], though, the P3-DX costs something like $10,000 with an educational discount.
      • by feijai ( 898706 )
        Having three Dxs, three ATs, and an Amigobot, I may assure you that the most common configuration (a DX with rear and front sonar, no bumpers, no grippers) is about $5K educational.
    • by RobinH ( 124750 )
      Maybe back in '91 Allen-Bradley gave away its programming software, but now the software (RSLogix) is sold by Rockwell Software for thousands of dollars depending on what options you want. Support is extra, of course. Still, it's the easiest to use PLC programming software out there, and I've tried about 7 or 8 different programming softwares for different PLCs.

      If you want to buy an ABB robot with the controller, that'll probably run you about $50,000. Getting someone to install it for you, build some en
  • ..... at

    this /default.aspx []

    You'll see that it includes the following:

    "A set of useful technology libraries services to help developers get started with writing robot applications, and tutorials which illustrate the basics of how to get started in a variety of programming languages."

    Does that include functions like:

    - Chair throwing
    - Google bashing
    - Threats of death to Eric Schmidt

    Just wondering....
  • Robots! The thing of the future... A new tool to make us even lazier and use more power! Yahoo!
  • Are we supposed to program the robot in Visual Basic?

    (duck and cover)
    • by RobinH ( 124750 )
      I actually do a little robot programming in industrial settings. The language on some popular models, such as Fanuc robots, is remarkably simple. Basically:

      Go to Point 1
      Wait for Input 3 to turn on
      Go to Point 2
      Wait for Input 3 to turn off

      There are other more complicated aspects to it, but the program tends to be very simple. In fact, most industrial robots are programmed by people who never took a university programming course. Fanuc follows a North American view that it should be simple enough for a
  • ... who said SPAM predicted that SPAM would be eliminated by 2006?

    . '[A]s I look at the trends that are now starting to converge, I can envision a future in which robotic devices will become a nearly ubiquitous part of our day-to-day lives,' Gates writes in the January issue of Scientific American.

  • The sad part is, kids are gladly going to shell out $400 for this and spend their college years emulating it bit for bit in Linux just because it's a Microsoft product, even though you can do the same thing for under $20 with a PIC. The most loyal Microsoft fans are the Linux hackers who clone everything they produce.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by wellingj ( 1030460 )
      I think you missed the point that this has already been done in Linux.
      So Microsoft is the one doing the 'emulating' and passing it off for 'inovation'.
      Its called Player/Stage/Gazebo and it has been out for a couple of years.
      Here's the proof from SourceForge:

      Date: 2002-01-11 15:48
      Summary: Player/Stage 1.1 released []

  • If people object to using MS-based robotics software, then let's find and/or build free alternatives. I know of one: Pyro [], written in Python (which is itself free/OSS and easy to use). I haven't used it myself, but it seems to support both real robots and virtual hardware. What other systems exist?

    How about building a simple I/O system ported to several languages, with a standard set of functions, suitable for commanding several brands of real robot as well as virtual models?
  • Hey sexy mama, wanna kill all humans?
  • by mjtg ( 173905 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @05:46PM (#17244828)
    ... Microsoft has informed the SEC of its intentions to change its name to the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation [].
  • Microsoft Formally Releases Robotics Software

    When told the news, Cmdrtaco reportedly said "I TOLD you bitches! NEVER question my icons again!"
  • Microsoft is good a making announcements, the real problem is in delivering products they've promised.

    "Microsoft introduced a new product vision called Cairo in 1991; it ended up disrupting development and marginalizing competition throughout the next decade. The tactic worked so well that Microsoft repeated it in the following decade as Longhorn. Here's how it happened, and why Microsoft won't be able to repeat the same fraud again."

    Microsoft's Yellow Road to Cairo []
  • Who ever wrote this article sure chose his words to make it sound expensive. He made it sound as if you have to buy that Pioneer robot for $40,000 in order to use it.

    That's simply not the case. You can develop for a wide range of robots with this from the Parallax Boe-Bot [], Lego Mindstorm NXT [] and Roomba [] all the way up to those expensive robots for $40,000 or more. You can even build it for custom robots based on little pics like the BASIC Stamp [] computer and others similar to it.

    The beauty of this p

As Will Rogers would have said, "There is no such things as a free variable."