All About Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio Components

Microsoft’s Robotics Development Studio gives us the opportunity to design and simulate robots in an easy and user-friendly way. Simulation has advantages which include cost reduction, provides an easy way to change the structure of the robot, software testing is included in the simulation process, and fixing errors occurring in the design process.

Microsoft give us the opportunity to design and create new robots using RDS. This simulation platform is perhaps the most powerful free tool in the field of robotics simulation. The latest version of the program is RDS 4 and here you can find details how can be downloaded and installed.

In this article I made a description of the four basic components of MRDS. All these four components allows simulation in the most complex possible way of robots, simulation that can be done with minimal resources but with some solid knowledge of programming.

Robotics Developer Studio VPL workspace     Image source

01. Concurrency and Coordination Runtime (CCR)

CCR is a component that enables software development code to ensure autonomous operation. Mode of communication is through messages which are processed by a receiver. Applied in robotics, this technology enables operation of a robot based on information from several sensors. Another interesting feature made available by this technology is related to the operation of the robot. If a sensor produce wrong information or nothing at all, the robot can operate based on information from other sensors. Continue reading (…)


Most Advanced Linux Powered Robots

The mind of a robot is based on 1 and 0, an inseparable couple to make an intelligent system. Linux is the operating system which knows and takes decisions based on information received from the robot’s components. In robotics, Linux is one of the most popular operating systems with a long list of robots and companies that base their products on this well-known operating system. Advantages include stability, open source, high performance, the flexibility to be installed on a wide range of stations, compatibility with most tools available in robotic field, user-friendly installation and setup programs, multitasking, and the possibility to modify the system operation code.

In this article we made a list of complex robots that use as operating system Linux, a list that includes humanoid robots used in education and research, or robots that can be remotely controlled.


Jazz Remote Presence System

Jazz is a telepresence and telesurveillance robot used in the business world based on Linux with Gostai Urbi (v2.4 and above) middleware. This is a robot designed for interactions that can be controlled by using a smartphone or a PC. Continue reading (…)

Ten Best Light Sensors Used in Robotics

Light sensors are very common in robotics especially for navigation and object detection by measuring the amount of reflected light. Used with one purpose – to detect the light – they are very easy to install and are also inexpensive. The operation mode of a light sensor is simple, it generates an output signal directly proportional with light intensity measured.

Even if the operation mode is simple, there are four main principles on which such sensors are based:

  • Photo-emissive cells – these types of sensors release free electrons which belong to a light-sensitive material when they receive enough energy from a photon;
  • Photo-conductive cells – these cells changes their electrical resistance value when are subjected to a beam of light. In general these photo cells use Cadmium Sulphide semiconductors;
  • Photo-voltaic cells – these cells generally use Selenium to measure light intensity. This material has the ability to generate EMF when is subjected to light radiation;
  • Photo-junction devices – these photo devices work the same as a photodiode or phototransistor – use the light to control the flow of electrons and holes across their PN-junction.

Below you can find a review of various light sensors that can be integrated easily and as needed in any type of robot.


01. VEX light sensor

VEX light sensor

The light sensor from VEX is one of the simplest light sensors which can be used in robotics to allow a robot to detect the light. Light detection is done using cadmium sulfosolenide (CdS) photoconductive photocell that changes its resistance value when it detects a certain amount of light. Continue reading (…)

How Advanced Autonomous Robotic Lawn Mower Works and Steps for Improvements

The robots fight to take over most of the tasks and we must recognize that often they win without too much effort. Such case is the grass lawn care from home, from work, or from any other place where you can find grass. Integration of robots in human life will unfold a new lifestyle which will change the priorities and will have a positive impact on free time of every one of us.

Research in the field led to the creation of autonomous robots which can be used for lawn care. They can cut the grass, can avoid obstacles, can recharge automatically from a designated power station, all these without direct human intervention. An occasional task assigned to human includes the replacement of blades that cut the grass at a certain period. They are environmentally friendly because the only resource they need is electricity which is stored in their batteries. Maintaining a grass lawn also means its fertilization which takes place naturally. In this article we made an analysis of what is now available and we’ll try to see how these machines can be improved.

Bosch Robotic Lawn Mower


The design of the whole system is divided into three categories: mechanical, electrical and software. Here we talk more about industrial design and less about the exterior design of the product. Most of the times people tend to buy a product that looks good, well finished and with forms that impress, but here we will focus on what should be included under the outer shell, what is involved in the work and thinking process of creating a product in technological terms, and what it takes to have good functionality. Continue reading (…)

Curiosity – NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Mission Robot

NASA’s latest martian robot, the Curiosity rover, part of the Mars Science Laboratory mission has successfully landed on the surface of Mars on the 6th of August, near the Gale Crater. The mission started on November 26, 2011 when it was launched from Cape Canaveral. It is the largest martian rover ever built by NASA, at nearly 900 kilograms, and also the most well-equipped, with 17 cameras and scientific instruments onboard. In this article we present high detail artistic renderings of the rover, a few real life photos from development stages and a list of resources for further reading. All images presented here are courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Curiosity side view – it employs a rocker-bogie suspension system, just like Sojourner and Opportunity with independently actuated wheels.

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity with wheel on ramp, during lab mobility tests in June 2011. Continue reading (…)

Sensors and Accessories for the Mindstorms NXT

Sensors and accessories can greatly expand the capabilities of a robot. In this article, from the series dedicated to the Lego Mindstorms NXT, platform we will review some of these devices available from Lego and third party certified manufacturers. For most of these devices support is available in the programming environments used to work with the NXT, in Microsoft RDS predefined services are included with the package, while in NXT-G most of the predefined programming blocks have actions designed for certain types of sensor, however creating custom services or blocks for certain sensors or devices is possible. Besides Lego’s own hardware, certified devices are available from HiTechnic and Mindsensors and support is also provided by the respective manufacturers.

1. Lego additional hardware

Various devices are available at the Lego Shop website for prices not exceeding 60 US dollars.
Accelerometer sensor (2852724) – This sensor is a 3-axis accelerometer with the aid of which you can determine tilt conditions and acceleration forces. Continue reading (…)

Setting Up Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio to Program Your Mindstorms NXT

As we have emphasized in other articles, Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio is a very good tool to program your robots. Support and samples for generic sensors and devices as well as for several robotic platforms are included, among which we can find Lego Mindstorms NXT, but you can practically control and simulate almost any type of robot. MS RDS provides several interesting features such as Concurrency and Coordination Runtime (CCR) which represents a highly concurrent, message oriented programming model with coordination features that do not present the need of semaphores, locks, manual threading or other types of data, variables or procedures, Decentralized Software Services (DSS) which provides a service-oriented application model, or a graphical design and configuration environment such as the DSS Manifest Editor (DSSME). The Visual Programming Language (VPL) is the graphical development environment for your application, and it can also generate readable C# for improved versatility and the Visual Simulation Environment (VSE) is the primary tool for developing simulations of robots and their environment.

Basically the process of programming a robot under RDS consists of creating services that interact with each other, each service handling physical components of the robot, for instance a motor or a sensor, or coordinating components, such as a “drive” service that can coordinate two motors at a time for handling differential drive applications. Each of them is a REpresentational State Transfer (REST) web service, using dsshost.exe as a service bus. Continue reading (…)

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