Haven't you always wanted your own robot? If Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has its way, someday soon you may get one. The Inside Value selection has released its Robotics Studio framework to the public, giving us all access to tools for writing the software that might power the robots of tomorrow.

Microsoft thinks that robots could be the Next Big Thing, but the concept is facing many of the same obstacles that the early PC did back in the day. Tandy Trower, head of the nine-person robotics team that developed this project, says that "The thing that sounds very familiar (with the PC) is you had people asking 'Why would I want to own this technology?'" So in response to that, Trower's team wants to make it easier to get on with creating robots without having to build expensive prototypes first.

Microsoft Robotics Studio lets you build a virtual robot, then program it to handle simulated versions of real-life situations. Several programming languages are supported, alongside exotic features such as hardware-accelerated physics modeling. It's a basic platform for playing around with robotic concepts, and Microsoft has enlisted the help of several smaller companies (as far as I can tell, all private) to make it happen.

The one partner you've heard of would be Lego, which had a minor hit on its hands with the Lego Mindstorms programmable kit a few years ago. An updated Mindstorms version is slated for this fall, and I'd wager that the Robotics Studio will support that platform.

So will this be the end of companies like robotic surgery specialist Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) or iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT), with its array of household and military robotic tools, as a wave of hopeful upstarts are free to copy their successes with low-cost virtual modeling tools like this one? I wouldn't be so sure of that. These companies are veterans in their fields, and if anybody should be able to put such tools to good use, it's them. If anything, Microsoft may have just helped improve iRobot's margins through cheaper and faster research and development.

But of course, those companies are also likely to have their own software handy, and already in full use. If so, they likely prefer to keep such things to themselves. Maybe we'll see a rise of the robots, but it won't be tomorrow or next week. Check back in a few years and I'll give you an updated status report. Until then, today's intelligent-machinery specialists might be worth a look.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund is a shareholder in Intuitive Surgical, but holds no other position in the companies discussed here. Foolish disclosure is powered by state-of-the-art artificial intelligence, and the rest of us Fools will have to make do with our natural equivalents. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like.