Microsoft Open Sources AirSim "for training drones, other gadgets to move safely on their own"
A research team at Microsoft has announced a simulation tool that is open to anyone who wants to test their autonomous machines and prepare them for the real world. The simulation is not only for drones but also for self-driving cars and robots as well.
"They hope the tools will spawn major progress in creating artificial intelligence gadgets we can trust to drive our cars, deliver our packages and maybe even do our laundry," said Ashish Kapoor, a Microsoft researcher who is leading the project.
The open-sourced beta version of Aerial Informatics and Robotics Platform or AirSim is currently available for Windows and Linux via GitHub. Essentially, the tool allows you to set up simulated environments wherein you can navigate your autonomous vehicle through multiple situations. The software recreates realistic environmental conditions like shadows and reflections with the help of photorealistic technologies. Researchers and manufacturers can gather the data from the simulation before letting them out int the real world.
Virtual reality offers some advantages compared to real-life testing. The most obvious advantage when it comes to the virtual sphere is that there is no damage done. You can crash the drone any number of times in the simulation and not worry about any financial loss.
Moreover, you can test out a number of different drones and autonomous machines and play around with speed and volume that you would otherwise be unable to do so freely in the real world. All of this will work if the software is accurate with its AI and simulation. Due to "advances in graphics hardware, computing power, and algorithms, Microsoft researchers say they can create simulators that offer a much more realistic view of the environment."
The researchers at Microsoft believe that they want "a democratisation of robotics". The simulation would prove useful for researches of AI and robotics who do not have the time to develop these tools on their or the resource to test out their machines in the real world.
Since drone testing is still in its early days, simulations like AirSim will help drone makers test out their flying machines in a safer way. Microsoft's AirSim includes support for DJI and MavLink drones. The company plans to add more tools in the future to further help developers test and train their machines.
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