The Importance of Software and Language

You may already know about my recent post, 5 Best Robotics kits to get you started, where I listed the programming language of each robotics platform as part of my little mini-review. While I was writing it, I started to think about how important software really is.

It's easy to get absorbed in all the hardware and the mechanical/electrical engineering parts of robotics. They're tactile, and engaging not to mention fun! But don't neglect the software. Without software you lose out on all the things that make up great robot, namely behavior.

Just think of the coolest robot you know of, and imagine it:

  • slowed down in every way by 50%
  • clumsily bumping into things (people?)
  • and throw in a few glitchy movements here and there for good measure
Not so sexy? Well in order to get the sexy back... you need to super-sex your sleeves with some good solid code! Programming a robot can be exciting as it presents the possibility for AI, even on the simplest of bots. Sensing what is happening around it is arguably the most important thing an autonomous robot can do. And what's cooler than an autonomous robot?

Here's the good news: Lots of robotics platforms have communities willing to help you and example code for you to look at and try out to help you learn!

Robotics communities:
Arduino Forum
Lego Mindstorms Forum
Parallax Forum (Including Basic Stamp)

I have to admit... one of my favorite places to learn random new things is the Exhibition Section of the Arduino forum (where people show off their latest Arduino creations). Many of the people post the schematics, and code used in their robots, along with videos and pictures. Also check out the Exhibition Section of Arduino Playground.

I've learned so much from just looking at how other people go about creating things. Three cheers for open source!

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