View all newsletters
Receive our newsletter - data, insights and analysis delivered to you

Microsoft open source simulator lets you crash-test drones and robots

Simulator is part of Microsoft’s research project called the Aerial Informatics and Robotics Platform.

By CBR Staff Writer

Microsoft has released a new open source simulator which can crash-test drones, robots and self-driving cars virtually, before testing them in the real world.

The company in a blog noted that drones, autonomous vehicles and robots are still in the early stages of development and at present cannot differentiate obstacles such as people, trees and signal posts from things such as shadows, reflections and clouds.

To help developers of drones, robots and autonomous vehicles, Microsoft is releasing a simulator software, where they can be trained and tested, so that they can operate autonomously without running into any obstacles in the real world.

This is part of Microsoft’s research project called the Aerial Informatics and Robotics Platform, which includes software that allows researchers to write code that controls aerial robots and other gadgets in a realistic simulator.

According to Microsoft, the tools can help in creating artificial intelligence system that can drive cars and deliver packages.

Microsoft researcher and project lead Ashish Kapoor said: “The aspirational goal is Microsoft trains robotsreally to build systems that can operate in the real world.”

He said: “That’s the next leap in AI, really thinking about real-world systems.”

Content from our partners
How designers are leveraging tech to apply the brakes to fast fashion
Why the tech sector must embrace faster, smarter talent recruitment
Sherif Tawfik: The Middle East and Africa are ready to lead on the climate

Until recently, simulators offered limited help as it was difficult to visualise real-world complexities in the virtual world. But, thanks to improvements in graphics hardware, computing power and algorithms, the new simulator has been designed to offer a realistic view of the environment.

Microsoft claims that the simulator is built on photorealistic technologies that can accurately render things such as shadows and reflections with high precision. This can make a significant difference in computer vision algorithms.

Microsoft principal research software development engineer Shital Shah said: “If you really want to do this high-fidelity perception work, you have to render the scene in very realistic detail – you have sun shining in your eyes, water on the street.”

As the new simulator is realistic, but not actually real, researchers can, in turn, use it as a safe, reliable and cheap testing ground for autonomous systems.

READ NOW: Artificial Intelligence startup Maluuba acquired by Microsoft

This has two main advantages. First, it means they can “crash” a costly drone, robot or other gadget an infinite number of times without burning through tens of thousands of dollars in equipment, damaging actual buildings or hurting someone.

Second, it allows researchers to do better AI research faster. That includes gathering training data, which is used to build algorithms that can teach systems to react safely, and conducting the kind of AI research that requires lots of trial and error, such as reinforcement learning.

Websites in our network
Select and enter your corporate email address Tech Monitor's research, insight and analysis examines the frontiers of digital transformation to help tech leaders navigate the future. Our Changelog newsletter delivers our best work to your inbox every week.
  • CIO
  • CTO
  • CISO
  • CSO
  • CFO
  • CDO
  • CEO
  • Architect Founder
  • MD
  • Director
  • Manager
  • Other
Visit our privacy policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.
THANK YOU