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Microsoft points robots toward point upgrade

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Microsoft today further sealed the fate of mankind, effectively hurling open the gates that so precariously protect our species from an unending flood of mechanical horrors bent on the annihilation of flesh with the announcement of version 1.5 of its Robotics Studio development kit.

The software update adds support for Windows Embedded CE 6.0 and Windows Mobile, as well as other various programming improvements. Microsoft says the update will allow developers to more easily create advanced scenarios and software applications for robots on a wider variety of platforms at a lower cost.

"We're constantly seeking ways to improve the product through new features and provide a catalyst to academic, hobbyist and commercial segments," Microsoft Robotics Group manager Tandy Trower said.

Robotics Studio 1.5 also adds enhancements to the suite's speed, visual programming languages and 3-D physics simulation environment, built on AGEIA Technologies PhysX engine. New services have been added to the mix such as vision and speech recognition, so robots can not only see the twisted agony on their victim's face, but understand and take pleasure in denying the pleas for mercy that so pathetically gurgle from blood-spattered lips.

The software previously included a soccer simulation, which has a simulated soccer field and scoring services for support of participants in the Microsoft-sponsored RoboCup 2007 competition. The new version has added a sumo wrestling simulation, for a new competition to be held at Microsoft's Mobile and Embedded Developer Conference in May.

Microsoft first made the unusual move of releasing robo-concept software to answer the lack of software and hardware standards in the robotics industry — and of course, to help Microsoft and Windows replace Java, Linux and custom application tools for robotics tasks.

While most professional robotics companies continue to do custom work depending on a client's specific needs, Microsoft says Robotics Studio has seen growing success with hobbyist and academic institutions. For instance, Princeton University will use the software tools in its autonomous vehicle for the next DARPA Grand Challenge race.

Microsoft also announced it has placed the Decentralized Software Services Protocol (DSSP) used in the platform under the "Microsoft Open Specification Promise." According to them, this means "Microsoft patents for the services-oriented protocol specification may be used by anyone in the world, at no cost, and for any type of development including free software, open source, academic, or commercial."

So at least there's a reason to smile while you're being crushed between the cold pincers of a Killbot. Cheers to you, Microsoft. ®

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