Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio is the Microsoft gift for robotics enthusiasts designed to simulate and control robots. Since 2006 when the first version was released, MRDS went through many adjustments and the latest version has integrated support for 3D technologies, a long list of robotic components, Kinect, and a variety of robots.
The purpose of this article is to make an overview of MRDS, explain why to use MRDS, and how to install the software.
Microsoft releases the tool for free and only for Windows platform. Used to develop robotic applications and compatible with Windows 7, MRDS can be integrated with Visual Studio 2010 Express development environment that offers the freedom to insert any idea in your robot.
RDS offers the possibility to build robotic applications while offering support for testing and debugging. It is a completed integrated programming environment that tries to solve the problem of complexity in robotics programming by improving multi-processor and multi-thread management.
Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio
A robot use sensors to sense the environment, effectors to act in accordance with the signals from sensors, and an electronic brain to take a decision. Using more than one sensor, processing unit receives in parallel data from sensors. This is a special case in parallel programming and a very common scenario in robotics. Another delicate problem is that the processor has to response in real-time for all input data and handles some sensors leaks when they have a delay or malfunction in sending data. MRDS offers management models to handle all these issues, and makes in its own style namely very best.
The MRDS is a powerful tool designed to include all necessary services to develop, simulate, test, and debug a robot in a virtual world with the possibility to transfer the programming code in a faithful copy of a real robot. For controlling robots using Windows or web-based applications and to use Kinect sensors, RDS offers a wide range of possibility to develop new and innovative robots.
Both components Concurrency and Coordination Runtime (CCR) and Decentralized Software Services (DSS) are part of a services-oriented runtime programming used to implement integrated business applications.
Concurrency and Coordination Runtime (CCR)
CCR is one of the main components of RDS and is used to develop applications for autonomous robots. CCR communication is based on messages processed by a receiver in order to operate several information from sensors in real-time. Technology, like humans, is subject to errors. In case of a malfunction of a sensor, a robot has to continue its operation even a sensor inserts into system wrong information or it is not operational.
Part of this component is designed to be used in debugging. Once with an increased complexity of programming, debugging errors could be a nightmare if doesn’t use specific tools for a competitive debugging mode.
Decentralized Software Services (DSS)
One service communicates with another service using messages and the role of DSS is to allow the services to run in parallel. Talking in robotic components, sensors send information for processing while actuators act conforming to this information. This whole process is managed by DSS.
The systems that manage the robotic components collect information from sensors and inform all other systems with new information. This process is also managed by DSS service that mediates the service component states.
Visual Programming Language (VPL)
VPL component is designed to simulate by a graphical representation the robotic components. All services parts of a robot can be connected together using simple drag-and-drop gesture.
Visual Simulation Environment (VSE)
This component of the RDS is used for visual representation of the hardware components of a robot. The 3D representation of robotic parts and components is used in simulations where the interaction of the robot in a virtual world is simulated considering real-world scenarios.
Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio Installation
Microsoft creates a note with requirements necessary to have a good environment to run MRDS. At the top of the requirements list is Windows 7 operating system that is the single operating system compatible with MRDS 4. Hardware requirements have to include a processor dual-core with at least 2 GHz working frequency, 2GB of RAM memory, and at least 10 GB of free space on hard disk.
Step 1: Before to start installing MRDS, is preferable to install another free tool: Install Visual C# Express. Using this integration system can be created new services in order to develop complex robots.
Step 2: Download MRDS and follow simple steps described in the installation interface.
Step 3: This is the last step and is important one. To complete the installation process you still need to do some manual steps.
3.1 Go to Start Menu -> Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 4;
3.2 Press on “Build All Samples“(this will take a few minutes);