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Development environments for autonomous mobile robots: A survey

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Abstract

Robotic Development Environments (RDEs) have come to play an increasingly important role in robotics research in general, and for the development of architectures for mobile robots in particular. Yet, no systematic evaluation of available RDEs has been performed; establishing a comprehensive list of evaluation criteria targeted at robotics applications is desirable that can subsequently be used to compare their strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, there are no practical evaluations of the usability and impact of a large selection of RDEs that provides researchers with the information necessary to select an RDE most suited to their needs, nor identifies trends in RDE research that suggest directions for future RDE development.

This survey addresses the above by selecting and describing nine open source, freely available RDEs for mobile robots, evaluating and comparing them from various points of view. First, based on previous work concerning agent systems, a conceptual framework of four broad categories is established, encompassing the characteristics and capabilities that an RDE supports. Then, a practical evaluation of RDE  usability in designing, implementing, and executing robot architectures is presented. Finally, the impact of specific RDEs on the field of robotics is addressed by providing a list of published applications and research projects that give concrete examples of areas in which systems have been used. The comprehensive evaluation and comparison of the nine RDEs concludes with suggestions of how to use the results of this survey and a brief discussion of future trends in RDE design.

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Notes

  1. Exclusion of the listed systems is only indicative of not meeting the specified constraints; further examination is encouraged.

  2. Almost all of the selected RDEs are under constant revision and more recent versions might be available.

  3. While publications exist for ARIA's ancestral software, the authors were explicitly requested to not refer to it.

  4. Eiter's economical aspects category will not be considered here, except for the documentation criterion, as the selected RDEs are both open source and research-oriented. Related considerations, such as the cost of application development, RDE maintenance or modification, training, etc. are, however, addressed by the usability evaluation in Section 5.

  5. Our stages are similar to Ricordel and Demazeau (2000), although we subsume the analysis category as part of the design stage.

  6. While the Player server in Player/Stage can optionally be set to require authentication, it is explicitly acknowledged that the authentication is not for security, as keys are passed in plain text.

  7. We do not consider placing a sequence of commands in a shell script for execution as a single step.

  8. While disk space usage and bandwidth are important, neither is considered. We exclude disk space due to the variability of packages required, while bandwidth is not addressed due to the single-host nature of the “low-level” architecture.

  9. Binary and ternary values range from 0 to 2 so as to not introduce a bias towards ternary criteria.

  10. The impact of ACE/TAO is acknowledged in the user manual thusly: “The CORBA environment and the Miro framework seem to raise the bar for an easy entry into robot programming. While this can hardly be denied they facilitate tremendously the task of writing distributed programs.”

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Kramer, J., Scheutz, M. Development environments for autonomous mobile robots: A survey. Auton Robot 22, 101–132 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10514-006-9013-8

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