Top software toolkits for prototyping robotic applications


A suitable environment for developing and testing robotic applications is required to meet today’s demand for flexibility and low manufacturing costs. Software toolkits that include a simulation environment have been extremely useful for this.

The capabilities of a software toolkit’s ROS API, cross-compilation, and hardware depend on how well it is suited for real-world prototyping applications. Different robotic tools and libraries are automatically provided when ROS integration through an API is made available. The fact that ROS has been used and improved to the point where it has replaced other middleware options as the norm in the research and academic community is regarded as a significant advantage.

A simple method of cross-compiling to end devices is provided by cross-compilation. When real hardware can be easily purchased or acquired using the toolkit or its website, along with the parts specifically designed for mobile robots developed by the same company, the hardware is simultaneously seen as advantageous.

The top six software toolkits for prototyping mobile robots with indoor navigation will be discussed in this post. This list is not exhaustive. Webots, Microsoft AirSim, Nvidia Isaac SDK, CoppeliaSim, AWS RoboMaker, Matlab Robotics system toolbox, ROS, Baidu Apollo, Google Robel, RoboDK, RobotStudio, and Poppy Project are just a few of the other software toolkits for prototyping robotic applications that can be found online.

1. Webots

Cyberbotics offers Webots, an open-source mobile robot simulation software program. It includes a 3D simulation with physics, actual objects, and simulated robots, including flying, wheeled, and legged robots. Additionally, the toolkit provides a variety of simulated sensors. Additionally, the simulation graphics offer a pretty appearance with the option to change things like lighting and materials.

Webots integrates a variety of programming languages, including C, C++, Java, Python, and MATLAB. Additionally, BotStudio, a graphical programming language, can be used. Webots provides interfaces for connecting a real robot to a simulated control program. However, real hardware cannot be purchased using the toolkit or website.

Webots, on the other hand, has extensive documentation and are actively developing. The programming API and tutorials are both included in the documentation. Questions with a Webots tag can be posted to Stackoverflow for user support. Webots appear to perform well overall in each of the categories.

2. Microsoft AirSim

Microsoft offers the open-source AirSim robotics simulation toolkit. Deep learning is initially used to test and train drones in simulation. Now it also uses IoT devices, autonomous vehicles, and wheeled robots. It was initially integrated with Unreal Engine 4 and is currently available with Unity3D, offering a physics-based, realistic simulation environment. Since AirSim uses an API to translate messages to the application, various languages, including C++, Python, Java, and C#, can be used. Additionally, AirSim offers pre-built implementations of various simulated sensors.

AirSim offers a lot of potential in terms of navigation. It has a 3D simulation, is open-source, and is well-documented with tutorials. Facebook is used for user support and active development of AirSim. It contains a tutorial on how an autonomous vehicle can use deep learning to navigate using just one camera. The creation of a mobile, navigating robot within the simulation is made possible by this tool and others like ROS integration.

With AirSim, you can cross-compile the simulation program for various operating systems, including Linux and Windows. AirSim provides a way to compile drone programs, but it does not directly support compiling for mobile robots. Furthermore, the toolkit does not allow for purchasing any mobile robot hardware. Finally, since it has not been confirmed that AirSim can be run on other platforms, it is only supported by Ubuntu.

3. Isaac SDK

The Isaac SDK from Nvidia is a toolkit for creating robotic applications focused on indoor mobile robot navigation. Algorithms, machine learning, and hardware support for mobile robots are all included in the SDK. To enable the creation of unique scenarios and to produce training data for machine learning, Isaac uses Unity3D as its simulation software. Additionally, the SDK comes with generic simulated sensors for a moving robot that can navigate.

Isaac is a good option for toolkit for mobile robot navigation. With extensive documentation and sample applications, it offers a 3D simulation. On Nvidia’s website, a special forum is used for support. The SDK is available without charge and comes with several pre-made navigational algorithms and drivers for actual hardware. Users can use either Python or C++ to build their custom applications.

Additionally, the hardware required to construct mobile robots in accordance with the documentation is available for purchase. These robots use a camera or a lidar to detect their surroundings. The other hardware required for these robots is listed in the documentation, while Nvidia sells hardware optimized to run the software. The SDK also offers a way to cross-compile robot programs and directly upload them to end devices. The SDK is only supported by Ubuntu, though.

4. CoppeliaSim

CoppeliaSim is a flexible simulation environment for developing robotic and factory automation applications. It incorporates numerous programming techniques, including embedded scripts, plugins, and more. Scripts written in various languages, such as C, Java, Python, or Matlab, can be attached to simulation objects. Any well-known operating system can use CoppeliaSim, and a few free versions are available. These presumably have a limited feature set, whereas the commercial version costs money and offers the complete toolkit.

CoppeliaSim has online guides, tutorials, and a discussion board, like many other programs. The most recent version of the toolkit, actively being developed, was released in late 2019. The simulation environment offered by CoppeliaSim is a straightforward 3D simulator. It has practical elements like a physics engine and numerous simulated sensors. The simulator’s visual quality does not appear to be on par with top-tier game engines like Unreal Engine 4 or Unity3D.

Finally, it was mentioned that although CoppeliaSim is not directly supported, it is possible to cross-compile to end devices. Users must learn how to use the end devices on their own. However, CoppeliaSim does provide a method for producing portable models, which facilitates this.

5. AWS RoboMaker

Amazon created AWS RoboMaker, a cloud-based development environment for robotic applications. In essence, it adds cloud services to the ROS framework. The development environment, simulation, machine learning, monitoring, and analytic services are part of the AWS services. A robot can stream data, navigate, communicate, comprehend, and learn thanks to these.

It appears to have potential as a toolkit. There is extensive online documentation that includes tutorials and sample applications. The services are actively being developed, and Amazon provides support through specialized forums. RoboMaker is a cloud-based toolkit that only needs a browser and a terminal, so it can be used on any operating system. The toolkit’s accessibility is constrained by the fact that it is not free to use.

Through ROS, RoboMaker integrates various simulators like Gazebo and rviz. These are helpful for both simulating physics and testing applications. They do not, however, offer top-notch graphics for deep learning. On the other hand, Amazon actively collaborates with hardware manufacturers like Qualcomm, Nvidia, and Intel. Direct links to robotic hardware are provided in the documentation so that prototyping can begin. To work with AWS RoboMaker, some of the partners’ development environments have been directly integrated. Finally, RoboMaker facilitates cross-compilation by offering guidance on immediately deploying applications to actual robots.

6. Robotics System toolbox

For Matlab software, there is a toolkit called Robotics System Toolbox. Robotic applications like manipulators, mobile robots, and humanoid robots, offer tools and algorithms. Matlab is a paid piece of software that only offers a free trial. However, it supports any operating system and offers various tools and integrations for fixing various software issues. Because Matlab is so widely used, a large community and a lot of support are available, which can be found in the forums on the Matlab website.

The Matlab website has comprehensive documentation for the Robotics System Toolbox. The documentation includes tutorials and sample applications. There is also an API for programming. The toolbox’s most recent version, released in 2018, raises the question of whether it can keep up with its rivals.

Simulation is offered by Matlab and the toolbox for straightforward tasks and visualizations. They can create some sensors by integrating the Gazebo simulator, while they can simulate some sensors for mobile robots. Basic 3D simulation tools like scenario creation, physics, and graphics are available through Gazebo. These are useful addition because they are of a higher caliber than Matlab’s tools.

On the other hand, cross-compiling software for actual hardware is not directly supported by Robotics System Toolbox. However, running some models on end devices appears feasible using the general Matlab documentation. Cross-compiling might be possible to some extent by learning Matlab software.

The last point is that Robotics System Toolbox does not directly sell or provide hardware for use with robotic applications. To access their data, Matlab documentation, fortunately, offers a lengthy list of supported hardware.