MICROSOFT HAS launched an open source crash-pad for developers wanting to test robots and drones in virtual reality (V) before letting them loose in the ‘wild'.
The Arial Informatics Robots Platform is now available to download from GitHub with an open source licence.
Microsoft says that its tool is more advanced than anything of its type before it, with better physics and better recreation of the real life variables of the world outside.
The company blog explains: "The Aerial Informatics and Robotics platform solves for these two problems: the large data needs for training, and the ability to debug in a simulator. It will provide realistic simulation tools for designers and developers to seamlessly generate the copious amounts of training data they need.
"In addition, the platform leverages recent advances in physics and perception computation to create accurate, real-world simulations. Together, this realism, based on efficiently generated ground truth data, enables the study and execution of complex missions that might be time-consuming and/or risky in the real-world. For example, collisions in a simulator cost virtually nothing, yet provide actionable information for improving the design."
Of course, real world physics are nothing new, with the world's top video games and film CGI completely reliant on getting it right. But this is the first time, Microsoft says, that something so sophisticated and 'photorealistic' has been available to virtualise product testing.
Whilst aimed at autonomous vehicles in the outset, Microsoft believes that further down the line, this setup could be used for computer vision or machine learning.
Though nothing could ever replace real-world tests, there's no question that getting it right in VR first will mean that millions of man hours of testing and more importantly millions of dollars in crunched equipment will be gone, as each test can be conducted as many times as needed to get it right, then any adjustments made back in the real world before it even leaves the ground.
Existing drone enthusiasts will be pleased to know that DJI and MavLink already have support built in to AIRP, and being open source, building more interfaces should be a snap. µ
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