Building a robot involves skills from many disciplines, including embedded firmware and hardware design, sensor selection, controls systems design, and mechanical design. But simulation environments can provide a virtual arena for testing, measuring, and visualizing robotics algorithms without the high cost (and time) of development. This article introduces you to some of the open source robotics toolkits for Linux, demonstrates their capabilities, and helps you decide which is best for you.
The spectrum of traditional robots is large and varied, but with the advent of software agents (the virtual robot counterpart), these variations have expanded. Many of the characteristics of physical robots lend themselves to robots in the virtual domain. For example, mobility in physical robots implies some sort of locomotion, but mobile soft robots (or agents) can have mobility -- here, the ability to migrate between hosts in a network. Figure 1 shows a shallow view of autonomous robotics in the physical and virtual domains. This article focuses on software agents as a mechanism to simulate robots in synthetic environments.