Free version of Microsoft's robotics platform available now

Microsoft has released its first preview of Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008, a re-named and re-designed version of its 2006 robotics studio software.

Microsoft Robotics Studio 06, according to the company, had over 200,000 copies downloaded and over 50 companies in the partner program. Today's update was unveiled at the Robobusiness Conference and Exposition in Pittsburgh, the same conference that hosted the premiere of the earlier version.

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This version promises better runtime performance, improved distributed computing capabilities with LINQ support, and some new tools. The virtual simulation environment (VSE), for example, received the ability to record and playback simulations and a new floorplan editor.

The software is freely downloadable for noncommercial applications, and with its availability, Microsoft also announced a virtual robotics competition launching on April 21.

Robochamps (site requires Silverlight) will see Microsoft paired up with SimplySim in getting users of all skill levels to experiment using Robotics Developer Studio and simulate their results.

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