Ekkards Blog
Thursday, November 30, 2006
 
Robotics first step?
For several months now my interest in robotics has grown quite a bit. Apart from the fact that robots are cool anyway, the media have increased their coverage. Besides the unavoidable Aibo the press is covering the robocup, TV is showing pictures of the robot race across the desert. For a year now, the computer magazine c't has flooded me with a sequel about a home-grown robot including a simulation engine and virtual tournaments.

Now add to mix the Lego Mindstorms NXT, which were also released this year. Putting up the heat, I find myself in the office surrounded by colleagues who have either bought one already or are contemplating buying one.

A while ago I did a search in the Internet about software frameworks for robotics. There is the MARIE framework on SourceForge, and RobotFlow, as well as an evaluation in German from the Robot-Lab at HAW.

What most people, or better academics, seem to be doing with the frameworks is simulation. If I would like a simulated environment, I would rather put together a software bot for "World of Warcraft", where a rich environment is provided at a monthly fee and I would not have to paste together another boring labyrinth. (As a side remark, someone is already earning real money with a virtual robot named "Glider", although the operators of WoW do not like his kind.) No, not for me, I want the real thing: A physical robot.

Then there is nice hardware, among them a robot which can break dance: Robonova-I. Albeit with no decent software. It seems that the companies are running out of steam after having mastered the mechanics, put the electrics in and merely finished the electonic interfaces. And when the real fun starts, everybody is too exhausted to program anything sensible with the robot.

I missed a universally accepted framework to everybody was coding, building hardware, running simulations and so on. I all reminded me of the days when there were the first micro computers and everybody was hacking around. That was before Windows.

And whoops, now I stumbled across Microsoft Robotics Studio
Apparently, this is the thing I have been looking for. And it supports, guess what, Lego Mindstorm, among others.

The robotics company KUKA, located just half an hour from my place, is also supporting the framework. It almost looks to me like a business opportunity.

How could I resist any longer?

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