Something completely different: Did you know there is actually a Microsoft Robotics Group?Today, at the RoboBusiness 2006 conference they announced Microsoft Robotics Studio.
Microsoft Robotics Studio makes it possible to program both real world robots or hobbyist hardware (such as Lego Mindstorms NXT or Fischertechnik) in .NET. A list of third party hardware featured at RoboBusiness is here. (The program aims at professional, academic and hobbyist robot developers)
Now, running .NET on the robot would be a great excuse to invest some money into those neat Lego bricks… But you don’t have to invest into hardware at all: Robotics Studio includes a simulation environment, powered by the AGEIA PhysX engine. It does not require special hardware (besides the usual neat DirectX graphics card), but will happily work with a number of physics hardware accelerators.
Setting up the world and the “virtual” robot hardware is done programmatically and requires some programming work, but then again you can create vast indoor or outdoor labs with dozens of robots.
The kit requires .NET 2.0 and DirectX. At this time the 3rd party AGEIA simulation engine is supported on XP SP2 only. The June 2006 CTP of Robotics Studio is available for download here.