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Robots are cool.

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Let's face it, we have all dreamed of programming robots to do cool things, like fetch batteries for our wireless mice, pick up that stray d20 that fell under the table, or just to chase cats around the scale model Lego Death Star.

There have been several games over the years that I have played (on almost every platform) that had a variation on this theme. One, on the Apple IIe, had you wiring together logic circuits and sensors to make the robot solve a challenge in a room (navigate force fields for example).

Microsoft is starting a new competition that taps into this endless pool of hope we all have (still waiting for the flying cars!). RoboChamps.com.

There will be a series of challenges over the next few months, with contestant rules and everything. You compete by using the MS Robotics Developer Studio, and a challenge kit. You program the robot to complete the goals in the challenge. The robot you program is a simulation of a real robot, as well as the environment. The first challenge is "Amazed Challenge". You have to navigate a maze, that has traps. You have to teach your robot to open doors, etc.

Future challenges include navigating the surface of Mars in a Mars-rover like robot. That's cool. I hear it gets great gas mileage.

To get started, you have to:

0. Watch the Sports Center meets 'Number 5 is alive' video on RoboChamps.com.

1. Create an account. I used 'Wirehed', my Xbox Live handle.

2. Download VS2008 (express works fine, and it's free).

3. Download the MS Robotics Developer Studio 2008 CTP1.

4. Download the Challenge pack.

5. Do your voodoo, and write some code. Solve some challenges. Have some fun.

6. There are blogs, and forums.

7. Upload your code to enter the competition.

Each challenge will have its own prizes. The maze challenge has CoroWare CoroBot ( $3219.00 ) as the first prize. It looks big enough to chase household pets.

Go check out the site. You can download sample code. I think this is a great way to learn .NET as well. I am trying to pull together funds for next year to hold challenges at local events.

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