Tuesday, June 20, 2006

NXT on Microsoft Robotics Studio

In a previous post, I introduced the Microsoft Robotics Studio.

While studying the tutorials for the Robotics Studio, I noticed that the Microsoft Robotics Studio does support the Lego Mindstorms NXT. In fact, they have provided an entity and detailed model for the Lego Mindstorms NXT with two attached motors and wheels. But theoretically, any Lego robot can be specified.

One of the nicer ways to specify a robot is by using an XML manuscript that specifies the shapes of the parts, and their positions, as seen here:

Click image to enlarge.

Now what would be really nice, is an visual drag-and-drop environment that allowed predefined parts to be positioned onto each other. That way, by first defining all Lego parts as XML, any NXT robot could be created easily in the simulator. Since Microsoft provides such code-generating visual environments for windows forms and web applications, it seems logical that Microsoft will indeed provide such a visual environment.

Off course, LDraw has provided robot drawing tools for some time now. But unlike LDraw, Microsoft Robotics Studio allows you to insert your robot into a non-lego simulated environment. You can program against your simulated robot, and make it come to live in the simulated environment using Microsoft's C#, Visual Basic.NET or one of its other languages. Especially on collaborative behavior and distributed intelligence, which are my personal favorite topics, a simulated environment might be a great testing environment for multi-robot interaction.

But in the end, nothing beats seeing a real robot taking real action. It is less clear to me right now how one can go easily from a simulated robot to a physical robot.


At June 21, 2006 8:03 AM , Anonymous Drew Stevenson said...

I love the idea of a "world" populated by robots. I really want to delve into different ways that the bots can interact and communicate. But so far $$ is a problem. With this you could have many interacting to perhaps reach bigger pottentials.
Truely Awesome

At June 21, 2006 11:23 AM , Anonymous Filip said...

Drew, I agree totally. This really opens up to possibilities to build software for collaborative (and competing!) robots. One question on my mind is "resources". How many robots can a single PC simulate, or how complex can the world be? Also, Microsoft readily admits that their simulated sensors do not contain the kind of noise found in real sensors. That might make simulated software not work in real robots. But it is still a leap forward.


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