What are the best programming languages to use for robotics?
If you are unfamiliar with the field of robotics, it is highly likely that your first thought is some kind of dystopian science-fiction nightmare in which evil robots are ruling the entire world.
In fact, robots have been working for us since the early 1960’s. From industrial manufacturing, space exploration, bomb detection and disposal, their useful applications are simply endless.
Amazing examples of robotic achievements that are currently in operation include the Air Cobot, the Arduino Braccio Robotic Arm, Barsys automated cocktail maker and many others.
So what makes robotics even possible? The simple answer is an inspiring evolution of computer science, engineering and design. In this article, we’ll go over the basics and continue with a list of the most popular computer programming languages that are widely used in robotics today.
What is Robotics?
Robotics is simply the name given to the process of designing, constructing and operating robots. The key goal of robotics involves designing machines that can substitute humans and efficiently replicate human activity in a wide range of fields. At its most basic, robotics combines the disciplines of computer science and engineering. In reality, robots are essentially created by integrating the following fields:
→ Electrical engineering
→ Mechanical engineering
→ Information engineering
→ Software development
Without further delay, it is time to explore the most widely used programming languages for robotics.
C and C++
C and C++ are considered the two most mature programming languages currently used in the field of robotics today. While these languages enable easy interaction with low-level hardware, they are also popular because they offer an abundance of tools, libraries, functions and learning resources. In general, C is used if a robotics device has memory limitations and C++ is used to program devices without any memory limitations.
One of the world’s most popular computer programming languages, Python, is widely known for its ease-of-use and time-saving coding capabilities. It is a high-level programming language that is commonly used for designing embedded systems in robotic devices. Its useful features and large programmer community support, have rightly established Python as a leading programming language for the field of robotics.
Java and its numerous high-level features have become an essential programming language for robotics programming. Both fast and reliable, the Java Virtual Machine can interpret instructions during the code’s runtime. This language is especially used for programming robots to perform human-like tasks. In addition, the data science and robotics community uses Java to implement a wide range of machine learning solutions.
Microsoft C# / .NET
Often used in the Microsoft Robotics developer studio, C# is a proprietary language established by Microsoft. Thanks to superior libraries for programming robots, C# and .NET can be used to implement neural networks systems. Since both are license-permissive, it means you can use C# with minimum restrictions for any of your robotics projects. This is a must-know language for any aspiring robotics programmer.
𝔸𝕣𝕖 𝕪𝕠𝕦 𝕝𝕠𝕠𝕜𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕗𝕠𝕣 𝕒 𝕡𝕒𝕣𝕥𝕟𝕖𝕣 𝕔𝕒𝕡𝕒𝕓𝕝𝕖 𝕠𝕗 𝕡𝕣𝕠𝕕𝕦𝕔𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕙𝕚𝕘𝕙 𝕢𝕦𝕒𝕝𝕚𝕥𝕪 𝕀𝕋 𝕕𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕝𝕠𝕡𝕞𝕖𝕟𝕥 𝕗𝕠𝕣 𝕪𝕠𝕦𝕣 𝕔𝕠𝕞𝕡𝕒𝕟𝕪? 𝕐𝕠𝕦 𝕙𝕒𝕧𝕖 𝕔𝕠𝕞𝕖 𝕥𝕠 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕣𝕚𝕘𝕙𝕥 𝕡𝕝𝕒𝕔𝕖, 𝕕𝕚𝕤𝕔𝕠𝕧𝕖𝕣 𝕠𝕦𝕣 𝕥𝕖𝕒𝕞 𝕠𝕗 𝕕𝕖𝕧𝕖𝕝𝕠𝕡𝕖𝕣𝕤.
MATLAB is a highly versatile language that suits the field of robotics very well. Its rich and open-source programming environment allows robotics researchers, software developers and engineers to design, test and simulate various applications necessary to make a robotic operation flexible and efficient. This is a high-performance programming language that enables the integration of programming, visualization and computation.
Originally developed for applied mathematical notation in computer software, Lisp is one of the earliest programming languages. Despite its old age, many critical components of a robot’s operating system are still coded in Lisp, and that is why it is also a leading language in the field of artificial intelligence. Automatic data storage management, dynamic typing and elevated order functions are only a few of its benefits.
Arduino is not exactly a programming language. It is an open-source electronics platform that combines software and hardware to build a range of digital devices. For robotics, it offers a cheap and cross-platform method for programming a robot to operate flexibly and regardless of environmental conditions. Establishing advanced functionality, the Arduino robot toolkit is able to connect a robot’s sensors, actuators and control systems.
BASIC and Pascal
Although outdated and very much surpassed by more recent programming languages, Pascal and Basic offer a great gateway into the field of robotics for beginner programmers. They offer an easy introduction to the functionalities and technical issues of robotics programming. More specifically, Pascal – a language based on the BASIC language – actually forms the basis for several of today’s industrial robot languages.
Scratch is the absolute favorite teachers’ choice for high-school technology classes and robotics clubs. Even if targeted for ages 8-16, this is a visual programming language used by thousands of robotics enthusiasts around the world. Programming in Scratch involves dragging around coding blocks and connecting them together for specific robot functionalities. It’s no wonder that Scratch is the best language for complete beginners.
Industrial Robot Languages
One of the major problems within the world of industrial robotics is that almost every robot manufacturer has developed their own proprietary robot programming language. General-purpose programming options like ROS Industrial have provided more standardized programming environments in recent years. However, most experienced robot technicians will always learn and use a robot manufacturer’s proprietary language.
Hardware Description Languages (HDLs)
Electronic engineers who establish the low-level electronics of robots, usually deploy hardware description languages. These language groups are extremely useful for anyone programmer that wants deep knowledge of the robotics industry. Within a hardware simulation environment, HDLs are often used for specifying gates and computer chips, as well as for accurately simulating the behaviors of the resulting chip specifications.
While robotics and artificial intelligence are not the same field, they are closely linked. Prolog is considered a logic programming language that enables developers to efficiently represent ‘knowledge’ in a way that an artificial intelligence algorithm can comprehend and act upon it. It is closely associated with artificial intelligence and computational linguistics. Here is a fun fact: IBM’s Watson AI is based on programming done in Prolog.