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Mono for Robotics

by Jonathan Allen on Feb 06, 2008 |

Microsoft has been increasing pushing .NET into the embedded programming sphere for quite some time. First there was the .NET Compact Framework, used in smart phones, PDA's, and the XBox 360. This was followed by the .NET Micro Framework, for very small devices like sensors, and the .NET powered Microsoft Robotics Studio.

But Microsoft is not the only one trying to get into the robotics game. Cogmation Robotics is taking a stab at it using Mono, the open source .NET runtime. Mono, along with VB and C#, is featured in their flagship product robotFoundary.

Cogmation Robotics choose Mono because it eliminated their need for separate cross-compilers on each platform, a real concern when working with the multitude of CPUs found in the robotics industry. They write,

We needed a portable cross-platform, architecture compiler system that would allow us to develop code on one OS or architecture and deploy it on another with out recompiling. The problem with using gcc was that for every target OS or architecture we would need a separate cross compiler. Additionally maintaining and developing this toolset would be a large task.

We discovered Mono while we were evaluating 3D engines. Mono was successfully being used to develop video games and it was extremely fast. We performed a small test and compared the speed between Python and C# mono and were shocked at how fast mono was compared to Python. In addition to the speed increase and portability, we now had the ability to allow our users to write scripts in any .Net language.

Somewhat surprisingly, robotSuite, which includes robotFoundary and robotSim, was first released as a beta for OS X on the Intel i386 and PPC chips. There are plans for a Windows version early this year.

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