Microsoft releases Robotics dev toolkit for Kinect droids

Microsoft has released its Robotics Developer Studio 4 (RDS4), helping robot builders integrate Kinect into their DIY hardware, while a reference hardware platform, Eddie, has also been launched. Meanwhile, Microsoft has also announced its ten finalists of the Robotics@Home competition. The RDS4 toolkit includes simulators so that users can create virtual 'bots without any actual hardware to hand, but the real fun starts when you plug a Kinect into a laptop and some servos.

Then, it's possible to use the Kinect's distance sensors, tracking and other tech to help the robot navigate, avoid obstacles and react to those people around it. It's not just hobbyists, either; Microsoft expects commercial robotics manufacturers to pick up the toolkit, and has added Microsoft .NET Framework 4, XNA Game Studio 4.0, and Visual Studio 2010 support too.

An example of what can be put together is shown in Microsoft's video below, the Kinect Follow Me robot, which uses the sensors to trundle the test platform after its human master.

As for Eddie, the $1,249 reference kit is the handiwork of Parallax and includes everything – bar a laptop and a Kinect – you need to get going. There are five extra distance sensors – three of which are  infrared and two ultrasonic – collision avoidance in areas Kinect isn't facing, and owners can apparently easily add their own sensors, accessories and custom tweaks.

At its core is a Propeller P8X32A microcontroller, hooked up via USB to the laptop, with high-current motor drivers, an eight-channel 10-bit ADC, and multiple digital I/O connections. Power supplies for just about every purpose – 12 V, 5 V, and 3.3 V – mean you can run motors, LEDs and more, while runtime of 4 – 7 hours is tipped from a single charge.