Companion 8.6 is the current version of the standard NS firmware for civilian and security robots. It is a direct continuation of development from Companion 8.5, which did not have a final release. 8.6 was declared sufficiently stable for everyday use in June 2020. This version emphasizes or introduces:
- Ongoing work to minimize the script impact of idle units. Version 8.4.5 was the last version with no script hibernation features, and while the fundamental approach introduced by 8.5 significantly reduced the potential of large crowds of robots to overload grid region simulators, the 8.5 builds suffered from substantial internal message congestion, race conditions, and other bugs that could cause modules to incompletely initialize. More aggressive traffic management and a new two-stage module probe have already alleviated many of these defects.
- Text streams and shell pipes. Version 8.2.0 introduced the vox system, a multi-staged text filter infrastructure intended for use with chat messages. The message transport method used by vox is suitable for a complete implementation of Unix-style text stream buffers, which we are working on applying to all parts of the operating system. Pipes are handled by a single transceiver module, which also provides a wrapper for channel-based and HTTP-based communication. This will allow many system components that could not be converted to libraries in 8.5 to finally be converted.
- The new Native HUD. This is an immersive heads-up display for units that discards the original "Mac shelf" or "Charms bar" design of the Screen HUD in favor of only showing information when it is needed. (The old Screen HUD is still available for units with lower-resolution CCDs.)