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Microsoft Robotics Software Technology

Microsoft's New Attempt To Dominate Robotics 225

An anonymous reader writes "IEEE Spectrum reports that Microsoft's Robotics Group is announcing new world domination plans — at least for the robotics world. The company is making its Robotics Developer Studio (RDS), which includes Microsoft's CCR and DSS runtime toolkit, available to anyone for free. Why make it a freebie? Because the company wants to expand its RDS base and get a grip on the robotics development space, hoping big things will come out of it."
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Microsoft's New Attempt To Dominate Robotics

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  • Wow... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:54PM (#32287892)

    Wow, that is one biased summary.

    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by masterwit ( 1800118 ) * on Thursday May 20, 2010 @09:20PM (#32288048) Journal

      I will have to second the AC's opinion here...

      We call this Business 101. Same reason Oracle kept java free...in the "goal" that its services would be desired later. (Keep Java popular and mainstream)

      Why don't we just say we hate Apple, Microsoft, and all other corporations to be fair...or we can legitimately point out where corporations are unethical and not tolerate those acts and support good business practices (There are examples for Microsoft, Apple, etc. Every silver lining has a touch of gray). Plus why start complaining about free software, do you wish they charged for it?

      Sorry for that rant...but this isn't front page new format, more flame-bait. As for creating software for robotics, I did find that interesting, thanks.

      • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @10:39PM (#32288580)
        Microsoft has a LONG LONG LONG history of doing all things legal and illegal to win market share. So dah, blindly thinking they are giving out the SDK free, as in beer, has a high probability it will not feel free or really be free if they win much market share. Look at how they handled the browser for a good example of how they work. They even tried making MS IE free but that wasn't working very well so they had to tie it to the OS, spread its bits all over the OS to fight orders to keep it separate, and even buy up Netscape contracts and pay companies for every unit shipped. And then they shipped a browser with many tied directly to proprietary features of only their platform.

        So, dah, who would trust Microsoft to actually compete by making better products? Not too many who've seen them operate over the past 20+ years. If they are so good, let them sell API's which run on top of Linux. Oh wait, they die without the ties to Windows. IMO

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Artifakt ( 700173 )

          And it's that 'legal AND illegal' that worries some here. With one hand, Microsoft is openly doing something that is legal and will doubtless benefit some people. Given their history, what's the other hand doing? It's possible there isn't a concealed part of the overall process, but given that very same history, why is anyone in a rush to demand they get the benefit of our doubts? How many times does Microsoft have to demonstrate they have an ulterior motive, before everyone gets the memo?

          • Given their history, what's the other hand doing?

            Building a secret underground army of robotic clone warriors to take over the world.

            And who is Komar, King of the Voins? I've wondered that for years...

          • "Having a monopoly is, in itself, legal."
            No, it's not. There are anti-trust laws for specifically this sort of thing.

            Regardless, if a company is doing something legal then there really shouldn't be an issue. What, should we not let Microsoft give away their software for free? Should we require them to charge money for the robotics studio? If it's legal then it's legal, end of story.

            However, if a company is doing something illegal then it's illegal and they should be prosecuted, end of story.

            I really don
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Smallpond ( 221300 )

              "Having a monopoly is, in itself, legal."
              No, it's not. There are anti-trust laws for specifically this sort of thing.

              If that were true, the first company to make any product would always be breaking the law. What's illegal is using control of a market to stifle competition.

          • by drsmithy ( 35869 )

            Having a monopoly is, in itself, legal.

            No, it's not.

            Practically speaking, it's nearly impossible to be a monopoly and not violate antitrust law, but being a monopoly is not, in and of itself, illegal.

        • If they are so good, let them sell API's which run on top of Linux. Oh wait, they die without the ties to Windows. IMO

          This is one of the stupidest things I've heard this week. I agree that Microsoft is an evil entity spawned by the dark lord himself, but even if they were good they'd have no reason to support a competitive platform. Besides if they did, it'd probably suck on Linux anyway so no harm no foul.

    • They offer Internet Explorer for free undercutting Netscape's business model. They offer Outlook with a pretty user GUI and integrated with Office to push users to ask for Exchange. An email program that's easy to setup the first 50 users, but a nightmare for large corporations. Active Directory simplifies an all Windows environment, but mangles LDAP so you have to jump through hoops to add any other desktop to the environment. Sharepoint is really cool and easy to setup until you have to set controls and
      • by The Spoonman ( 634311 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @09:47PM (#32288250) Homepage
        An email program that's easy to setup the first 50 users, but a nightmare for large corporations.

        Really? Every Exchange implementation I've been on in the last 15 years (starting at 1000, 5000, 9000 & my current job @ 15,000 users) has been just as "install and forget" as the first @ 200 users. Perhaps you're just doing it wrong?
        • by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @10:21PM (#32288478)
          Clearly you are a troll. Your anecdotal, uncited evidence was obviously inferior to the parent's anecdotal, uncited evidence. ;)
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by EdIII ( 1114411 )

          Perhaps you have been really really REALLY lucky?

          I hate Exchange with a passion that is hard to put into words. The attempt to express my feelings for it is best done by quoting Khan, "from Hell's heart, I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!"

          I had nothing but problems with corrupting Exchange stores, failing services, installation compatibility issues, etc. Of course you can blame the server admin and just claim I did not have the skills or the understanding, despite working wi

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by falzer ( 224563 )

            Khan... or, Ahab...

            • by EdIII ( 1114411 )

              Heh.. yes you are right. Star Trek mangled a lot of the quotes from Moby Dick, but I thought it would be appropriate and more accessible to quote Khan on Slashdot.

              I know it's from Moby Dick, but every time I think about it I hear Ricardo Montalban's voice saying it.

      • They offer Internet Explorer for free adopting Netscape's business model.

        • Netscape charged for it's browser until MS started bundling IE with Windows.
          • Not true. It was initially cost-free for non-commercial use although Netscape kept changing its policy and reneged on its promises.

            • by TheLink ( 130905 )
              FWIW, there was a time when I stuck to Netscape 3 because Netscape 4 was a piece of shit that made IE look good - kept crashing and performing badly. People like to say Microsoft killed Netscape. But IMO, Netscape killed Netscape. Their codebase was so bad that for years Mozilla languished in a "worse than IE" form. Anyone remember Netscape 6?

              In the recent years Mozilla has been better than IE (and guess what its market share has gone up), but some years ago, Mozilla was something that people put up with be
    • by Nimey ( 114278 )

      No kidding. I thought that was a kdawson story, but I owe him an apology.

  • API! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <sopssa@email.com> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:54PM (#32287894) Journal

    If they combine it with a similarly good API as XNA is and get hardware support, that's great.

    Coding robotics has previously required a lot of low level coding. Who of us haven't though how great it would be code your own robot easily, and make it work just like you want it to, without going to all the low level details?

    • Coding robotics has previously required a lot of low level coding. Who of us haven't though how great it would be code your own robot easily, and make it work just like you want it to, without going to all the low level details?

      Yeah, it'd be really innovative if you could program robots in a language like, for instance, smalltalk..... oh, did I hear the 1980's calling?

      • I don't think i need all of Smalltalk's power for my robotic turtle, he just needs to rotate, move forward and raise or lower his pen. Is there a high-level language suitable for him?

        • Is LOGO a high level language? Wasn't it originally just commands to stepper motors? Or can it do proper logic? My ignorance annoys me.

  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:55PM (#32287906) Homepage Journal

    Great, so where can I get a cheap compatible robot and what kind of stuff can I program it to do?

    Also, http://ti.arc.nasa.gov/tech/asr/intelligent-robotics/nasa-vision-workbench/ [nasa.gov] looks pretty damn cool.

  • by binarylarry ( 1338699 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @08:57PM (#32287914)

    Sounds like a plan to me.

    When the robot uprising starts, there'll be a million ways to crash the fuckers.

  • by aBaldrich ( 1692238 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @09:04PM (#32287956)
    From the article:

    In addition to creating a single RDS release, the robotics group is also making the source code of selected program samples and other modules available online, hoping to improve collaboration among users. In particular, Microsoft wants to entice the growing community of hobbyists, do-it-yourselfers, and weekend robot builders.

    They are releasing code. Which is worth mentioning in the summary, since we are talking about Microsoft. Obviously they are not opening the whole thing, because after they extend, they want to make money, but still it is interesting.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tolkien ( 664315 )

      making the source code of selected program samples and other modules available online

      Woohoo, they're providing tutorial code.

    • What part of "selected program samples and other modules" don't you understand? They're not releasing the code for the actual product..

  • I admit it I didn't RTFA... but it sounds like the Willow Garage stuff... http://www.ros.org/wiki/ [ros.org] ?

    (http://www.willowgarage.com/ for the record is their main site).

  • Good on MS for building on their twenty years of technical marketing triumphs like the MS mouse, the wavy keyboard, the Zun... ah... did I mention the mouse?
  • >"Why make it a freebie? Because it wants to expand its RDS base and get a grip"

    No! Really? MS wants to offer something "free" for the purpose of dominating some market? I just can't believe it!! I bet it can't possibly benefit them in some way.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 20, 2010 @09:27PM (#32288098)

    "The day Microsoft makes a product that doesn't suck is the day they start making (robotic) vacuum cleaners."

  • "Consumer robotics is a new product category and building [applications] there requires leveraging the capabilities and inspiration of a broader community," he says. "This is exactly what we want to do.

    I'm sorry, but consumer robotics is not real robotics. Consumer robotics is toy robotics because anything other than toy robots, when operated by Joe or Jane Consumer, can kill people.


  • by figleaf ( 672550 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @09:34PM (#32288140) Homepage

    Robotics studio was made a paid product 2 years ago.
    Looks like they did not get enough buyers and its being offered for free now!
    And looks like it hasn't been updated in last few years.

    Regarding CCR, .Net 4.0 has made vast improvements in multi-core API.
    I don't see how much relevant CCR will be given the release of Task Parallel Library (TPL) for .Net and ConCRT for C++

  • ABB [abb.com] and MotoMan [motoman.com] are quaking in their boots.

    Seriously, does anyone use Microsoft's Robotics Products? for anything industrial?

    • No, and the amateurs that are playing with the Arduino and Basic stamp are not going to use .NET either ...

  • Welcome our new, blue-screened robot overlords.

  • ... of Microsoft trying to stay relevant. Will it succeed? The answer will be found in how many gullible people remain on the Blue Marble.


    Will Microsoft suck the innovation and profits out of the robotics industry in the same manner they sucked the innovation and profits out of the PC industry? Will the use of Microsoft's development environment environment force you to slow down your innovation to the level that Microsoft wants to accommodate?

    Stay tuned to /. for updates..................

    • "Will Microsoft suck the innovation and profits out of the robotics industry in the same manner they sucked the innovation and profits out of the PC industry?"

      Sure, because before MS came along there was all kinds of innovation and profit in the PC industry. Which is pretty amazing since there was no IBM PC before MS came along.

      • Of course not. But there sure was a pretty viable *PERSONAL COMPUTER* industry. Apple and Commodore owned the PERSONAL COMPUTER industry, and golly, it was even big enough for a couple of geeks in a garage to start a company, and then go public.

        Why do people keep thinking Microsoft is the only thing in this world?!

        • You are ignoring context (a common problem around here).

          If someone posts that MS "sucked the innovation and profits out of the PC industry" do you think they're referring to Commodore or Radio Shack? If the initials PC refer to all personal computers what was the point of those Apple advertisements "I'm a Mac", "I'm a PC"?

  • Hacked robot controllers gives a whole new meaning to "botnet".

  • by thenextstevejobs ( 1586847 ) on Thursday May 20, 2010 @09:50PM (#32288274)
    Didn't RTFA, but I'm assuming that the main idea here is lock-in to MS products and technologies. That means it'll be harder to share work and ideas down the road because of artificial dependencies on MS to run the code, etc. Hopefully folks in the field will hold their ground and build their work on top of open, sharable, neutral platforms
  • Nice summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 20, 2010 @09:57PM (#32288330)

    By the summary's logic, Linus Torvalds must be the next Dr. Evil, because he's been giving away Linux for over a decade.

    • Yeah, but he only did it for fun and to become a millionaire.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by devent ( 1627873 )
      Linus doesn't give Linux for free, he's giving it for Free. Meaning, you can do what ever you like with Linux and it's source code.

      If MS would be opening up the code for everyone under an open license, that would be news. But until that, it's just a marketing gag to get a foot in a new market.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Linux doesn't have a proven track record of Embrace, Extend, Extinguish. Step 1, embrace whatever new protocol it is. Everyone's happy that MS gets on board. Step 2, extend the protocol with MS-specific tech. Competitors can't use this because it's patented or relies on knowledge of the inner workings of closed-source software. Step 3, extinguish. When the extensions become industry-standard, use them to smash competition. Winner: Microsoft.

      Note that this isn't some sort of flamebait. Microsoft inve

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 20, 2010 @09:59PM (#32288336)

    Honestly people, there are more than enough valid reasons to dislike MS without adding imaginary ones. TFS takes the free release of what's probably at least nifty and interesting software and turns it into an irrelevant blurb about "world domination". As far as I can tell, MS dominates two (closely related) industries: home/office desktop and laptop OSes and utilities, and office software. They have also entered into many other markets, sometimes producing good products, sometimes bad, but never really getting the necessary leverage to "dominate" other, often better competitors for long. (e.g. Xbox, Zune, hotmail, Silverlight, Windows Mobile, Windows Server, even IE at this point.) I'm sure there is no shortage of asshats who go with MS simply because of an easy contract, but I'd like to think that robotics engineers and researchers aren't among them. If the tools are solid, great. If not, no one will care.

    Seriously. Hate on MS because of sleazy monopoly abuse. Hate on them for releasing disappointing public-beta style software. But the sort of hyperbolic nonsense on the frontpage makes *NIXers look like unbalanced zealots.

    • Perhaps years of technologies like COM and ActiveX and .NET and tools ilike VisualStudio or the SQL Server management tools have shown us what to expect. And those are just some of the 20% of their technologies that have WON, not the 80% that dropped into oblivion within two years of being announced.

      Here's what I expect:
      Dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all...
  • Two thoughts on this and neither are good:

    -Blue Screen of Death will have a new terrifying meaning

    -At my age I may be among the first generation to have substantial elder care provided by robots (about 15yrs out). I was hoping for cool and useful robots ... now it will be the same old crap. I'll be 75 and will then be asked ... "my robot has this problem ..."

  • Take note, with this announcement Microsoft has given a new meaning to 'plug-ins'.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday May 21, 2010 @02:03AM (#32289720) Homepage

    This looks more like Microsoft giving up than going for world domination. A few years ago, Microsoft had a presence at robotics conventions, pushing the thing. That shrank, then disappeared.

    A basic problem is that Microsoft Robotics Studio is built on Microsoft Web Services, which is not exactly the tool you want for real-time operation. It has a simple-minded visual programming environment. There's little (any?) vision support. There's little, if any, machine learning. It's really only about two notches above Lego Mindstorms, and way below stuff like DARPA Grand Challenge vehicles or Boston Dynamics' robots.

    If you want to see more cutting edge stuff, download Willow Robotics code. They're working hard on vision and making real progress.

    Hobbyist robotics needs a major quality upgrade. People are still building '80s type robots. By now, any serious robot should have a vision system and SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping). Any robot with a laptop, or one of the fancier cell phones, on board has enough compute power for that. But Microsoft Robotics Studio won't take you there.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Friday May 21, 2010 @02:10AM (#32289754) Homepage Journal

    Where do they think there's money to be made? In toys, Lego Mindstorms pretty much has it sewn up; it's well established, integrates well into a major well established mechanical toy and and has a huge community around it. I don't know a great deal about industrial robotics, but I'd suspect it's a game for specialists simply because of liability issues - it's bloody dangerous if done wrong.

    I want to to know what they're smoking. And where I can get some.

  • You should read TFA it does mention a number of different manufacturers.

    Has anyone used Robotics Studio? The visual programming language looks kinda neat at a glance.

    Do people really build robots with this kind of thing? Looks like maybe it is for easily configuring a robot to follow certain paths and such?

    In comparison Willow Garage is open source and has a lot of people getting involved. I'd like to hear from people who have tried both but ROS is a real open source unix development kit, and so is more lik

  • Danger, Will Robi

    *** STOP: 0x00000019 (0x00000000, 0xC00E0FF0, 0xFFFFEFD4, 0xC0000000)

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