For those not familiar with the RoboChamp competition it is a contest of robotics that is currently being held by Microsoft. I felt that this would be a good excuse to get off my duff and see what I can do in this area.
Although I don't have much to report at this moment, I can tell anyone that is interested to make sure that they download the March 2008 Runtime of DirectX in order to get you to a running state (this isn't listed as one of the installs you will need to get started but it is a requirement for the virtual environment). Hopefully that gets you to a running state a little faster than I was able to. =)
I can't compare this to other robotic development platforms but I have to say that just the inclusion of the virtual environment seems to be a huge boon for an enthusiast like myself. I could never afford to purchase a robot just to tinker with it and without tinkering with it first I am not sure which robot I would like to own.
Or to put it another way, how can I advise a client which robot would best fill their needs when I have little idea what each and every robot is capable of doing (and what their limitations are).
Granted the virtual environment is a 'perfect world' scenario where tires don't lose traction, atmospheric conditions don't interfere with sensors and background noise doesn't exist (unless you create it) but it does have a physics engine that promises to allow the creation of these types of conditions if you think they are realistic to your needs (more on that latter).
I added my robochamp card to the bottom of the main page for those interested in how I am doing. Drop me a line if you are also thinking about joining in on the fun. =)