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Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Microsoft Shows Off Software Kit for Robot Builders

Microsoft showed off a software kit for robot builders that it said will free inventors to make creations limited only by their imaginations. The company pulled the curtain back on its Microsoft Robotics Studio at the RoboBusiness and Exposition 2006 in the eastern state of Pennsylvania.

Microsoft showed an application development kit that is designed to make it easier for anyone and everyone to write applications for a robot. According to Microsoft representatives, the software can address both high-end robots and very simple robots. It is about Microsoft building a bootstrap, or a platform, to allow the industry to integrate the pieces they are developing.

Anyone wanting to test-drive the software can download it without charge at http://msdn.microsoft.com/robotics.

The robotics industry is poised for revolutionary growth on par with that undergone by the personal computer industry since the 1970s.

Industry analysts expected robotics will grow into a multi-billion-dollar industry during the next decade.

Robots can make hospital rounds for doctors, who can navigate the machines from their computers and interact with patients via camera and audio equipment.

There are robots for tasks as mundane as vacuuming floors and as perilous as exploring enemy terrain in Iraq.

"A robot could call for help if we fall down, remind us to take our medicine, or allow family to look in on us to make sure we are OK," a Microsoft spokesman said.

Microsoft's robotics suite was geared for students and hobbyists as well as sophisticated engineers, according to the company.

Among the features touted was a tool that lets people craft applications for virtual robots as well as create simulated machines with designs that don't yet exist in the real world.

Microsoft's application was put to work in a yet-to-be released Lego Mindstorms children's robot building set and in a six-wheel French Robosoft robot built for military and civil safety uses, according to the makers.

The new generation Mindstorms robot-building kit was to be shipped later this year, according to the Danish manufacture of children's play materials.

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