8 Best Free and Open Source Linux Robotics Software

Robotics is the branch of artificial intelligence concerned with the study of robots, automatically guided machines which are able to carry out tasks and functions on their own. Robotics covers a wide spectrum of areas including the design, construction, operation and manufacture of robots.

Linux plays an important role in powering robots. There are many notable examples of Linux in action in the robotics world. For example Nasa’s space exploration robot K10, which can be remotely operated on planetary surfaces, runs on custom, embedded software on a dual-core Linux laptop. Another impressive robot is the humanoid robot, HOAP-1, in which RTLinux has been deployed by Fujitsu. Also worthy of a mention is the Katana Robotic arm, which comes with an embedded controlboard running Linux 2.4.25 with Xenomai Hard Real Time extensions.

Building a robot can require considerable expertise and creativity given that it involves skills from many disciplines such as hardware design, control systems design, mechanical design, as well as embedded firmware and sensor selection. Moreover, building robots can be expensive as there are many different parts to purchase including electronics, sensors, and microcontroller parts. One important way to keep the development costs to a minimum is by using simulation environments. These provide an inexpensive way to test and measure the robotics algorithms, and at the same time encourage experimentation.

Linux has a good range of open source toolkits for building robotic control systems. To provide an insight into the open source software that is available, we have compiled a list of 8 of our favorite robotics software. Hopefully, there will be something of interest here for anyone who wants to conduct research in robot systems. Here’s our verdict captured in a legendary LinuxLinks-style ratings chart.

Ratings chart for the best free and open source robotics software

Click the links in the table below to learn about each of the robotics programs.

Robotics Software
NASA Vision WorkbenchImage processing in the context of machine vision
DARTDynamic Animation and Robotics Toolkit
Gazebo SimRobot simulation made easy
ARGoSPhysics-based simulator designed to simulate robot swarms
AprilTagVisual fiducial system popular for robotics research
The Player ProjectCross-platform robot device interface & server
OpenRTM-aistComponent-oriented development of robot systems
UrbiUniversal Robot Body Interface

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1 year ago

Where’s ROS?

1 year ago
Reply to  Will

Last time I saw her was at KACL