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Programming Language for Robotics

Programming Language for Robotics

Programming Language for Robotics


The robot software is used to perform autonomous tasks, it is the set of coded commands or instructions that tell the mechanical device & the electronic system, known together as a robot, what tasks to perform, Many software systems & frameworks have been proposed to make programming robots easier.

We are investing a lot of time & effort in learning a new programming languages, If you are a new roboticist, you want to learn the programming languages which are going to be useful for your career, many programming languages are used in the world to program micro-controllers, They are far too many to learn, Each language has different advantages for robotics.

The roboticists should develop the Programming Mindset rather than to be proficient in one specific language, it doesn’t really matter which programming language you learn first, Each language develops your proficiency with the programming mindset & makes it easier to learn any new language, Programming your robot is the final step involved in building the robot, When you have chosen the actuators, the electronics, the sensors & more.





C/C++ is one of the most popular languages , C presents high-level functionality while keeping a good low-level control , Java is more modern than C and it presents many safety features to the detriment of low-level control .

Many people agree that C & C++ are a good starting point for new roboticists , Because a lot of the hardware libraries use these languages , They allow the interaction with low level hardware , allow for the real time performance and they are very mature programming languages , C/C++ is the Number 1 programming language in the robotics .

As the language has much more functionality, So, You’ll use C++ more than C, C++ is an extension of C, It can be useful to learn at least a little bit of C first, so, you can know it when you find the hardware library written in C, C/C++ are not as simple to use such as Python or MATLAB.

It can take a lot longer to implement the same functionality using C & it will require many more lines of code, although, as the robotics is very dependent on the real time performance, C and C++ are the closest thing that the roboticists have to be a standard language.




The most important thing is to find the language that feels natural for you and fits with your robotic hardware , You want a language that enables you to develop the programs quickly & easily , so that you can focus more on developing functionality , So , You have to learn Python first .

Python is a superb straightforward language to learn & hugely powerful thanks to the many , easily accessible libraries , You can produce usable code in Python as fast as you can type , After you have gotten reasonably proficient using Python language , You have to learn C , followed by C++ , You will need it to interface with a huge majority of robotic hardware drivers .

Python (and C++) are the two main programming languages found in ROS , such as Java , There is a huge resurgence of Python in the recent years especially in the robotics , it is an interpretive language , the prime focus of the language is ease of use , Unlike Java , Python dispenses with a lot of usual things which take up the time in programming , such as defining & casting variable types .

We can see a lot more Python in the robotics , Python enables simple bindings with C/C++ code , The performance of heavy parts of the code can be implemented in these languages to avoid the performance loss , many electronics support Python out-of-the-box .




Some computer science degrees teach Java to the students as their first programming language , Java hides the underlying memory functionality from the programmer , that makes it easier to program than , say , C , but this means that you have less of an understanding of what it is actually doing with your code .

When you come to the robotics from the computer science background ( and many people do , especially in the research) you will probably have learned Java , Like C# & MATLAB , Java is an interpretive language , that means that it is not compiled into the machine code .

The Java Virtual Machine interprets the instructions at run-time , The theory for using Java is that you can use the same code on many different machines , thanks to the Java Virtual Machine , this doesn’t always work out and can cause the code to run slowly , Although , Java is quite popular in some parts of the robotics , so , you may need it .





C# is a proprietary programming language offered by Microsoft , C#/.NET is included largely because of the Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio , that uses it as its primary language , If you are going to use this system , you’re going to have to use C# , However , learning C/C++ first might be a good option for long term development of your coding skills , .NET/C# is used to develop the applications in Visual Studio .




There is a very popular Robotics Toolbox for MATLAB, Some people have developed the entire robotics systems using MATLAB alone, If you want to analyse data, produce advanced graphs or implement control systems, you will want to learn MATLAB, MATLAB & it’s open source relatives such as Octave, is very popular with some robotic engineers for analysing the data & developing the control systems.




Assembly language is one step away from the machine code but it is very tedious to use, Assembly should only be used when you need absolute instruction-level control of your code, Assembly helps you program at the level of ones & zeros, this is a programming at the lowest level (more or less).

In the recent past , Many low level electronics required programming in Assembly , With the rise of Arduino & the others such the micro-controllers, you can program easily at this level using C/C++, So, Assembly is going to become less necessary for most roboticists.


BASIC / Pascal


BASIC & Pascal are the basis for many industrial robot languages & they were two of the first programming languages , Basic is one of the first widely used programming, it is still used by some micro-controllers (Basic Micro, Basic, Parallax) for the educational robots  .

BASIC was designed for the beginners, it stands for Beginners All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code that makes it a pretty simple language to start with, Pascal language introduces the constructs such as the pointers, that makes it a good stepping stone from BASIC to a more involved language & it was designed to encourage good programming practices.

These days, both languages are a bit out-dated to be good for everyday use, However, it can be useful to learn them if you are going to do a lot of low level coding or you want to become familiar with the other industrial robot languages.

Nearly every robot manufacturer has developed their own proprietary robot programming language, that has been one of the problems in the industrial robotics, You can become familiar with several of them by learning Pascal, Although, you are still going to have to learn a new language every time you start using a new robot.




LISP is not as widely used as many of the other programming languages, It is the world’s second oldest programming language ( FORTRAN is older, but only by one year ), It is still quite important within Artificial Intelligence programming, Parts of ROS are written in LISP, although you don’t need to know it to use ROS.

The programming options such as ROS Industrial have started to offer more standardized options for the programmers, although, if you are a technician, you are more likely to have to use the manufacturer’s language.


Hardware Description Languages (HDLs)


Hardware Description Languages are used to program Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), So, They are quite familiar to some robotcists, FPGAs allow you to develop the electronic hardware without having to produce the silicon chip that makes them a quicker & easier option for some developments, and these languages are a programming way of describing the electronics.

You may never use HDLs, if you don’t prototype the electronics, so, you should know that they exist, as they are different from the other programming languages, all the operations are carried out in parallel, rather than sequentially as with the processor based languages.

Processing (Arduino) is a variant of C++ which contains some simplifications to make the programming easier, Python is one of the most popular scripting languages, it is very simple to learn and it can be used to put the programs together very fast & efficiently.


Scripting languages


The scripting language is a high-level programming language that is used to control the software application, It is interpreted in real-time or translated on the fly, instead of being compiled in advance, The scripting language is a general purpose programming language or it may be limited to specific functions used to augment running of the application or the system program.

The scripting language has the data objects residing in the registers & the program flow represents the list of instructions or the instruction set that is used to program the robot, The scripting language instruction set is a streamlined list of program commands that are used to simplify the programming process & offer rapid application development.

The programming languages in the industrial robotics are designed for building the data structures & algorithms from scratch, while scripting languages are intended more for connecting or gluing the instructions & components together.


Parallel languages


All robotic applications need parallelism and event-based programming , Parallelism is where the robot does two or more things at the same time , This requires appropriate hardware and software .

Many programming languages depend on the threads or complex abstraction classes to handle parallelism & the complexity that comes with it, like concurrent access to share the resources , URBI offers a higher level of abstraction by integrating parallelism and the events in the core of the language semantics .