Many believe that robots are the future because they can perform automated tasks more accurately and consistently than humans. Robots’ automation potential and convenience are the reasons behind the growing interest in robotics.
A robot is an autonomous machine that can perform tasks based on the inputs provided by its sensors. In robotics, you need to take knowledge and techniques from mechanical engineering and electronics to build the robot’s physical form. However, there is still one more crucial skill you need to master if you are dealing with robotics, and that is programming. A computer program provides instructions to the robot to perform tasks based on the data gathered by its sensors. Without this program, a robot is just a static mechanical piece.
You will need a programming language capable of developing a program that will serve as the robot’s “brain”. One of the most basic yet popular robot programming languages for robotics is Python.
Here are the top 7 things to know about coding a robot with Python.
Python is clean and readable.
Python is a high-level text-based programming language. This means that its design makes it highly readable and comprehensible to humans compared to other languages. These two key qualities make Python easy to learn for robotics beginners who have enough motivation.
Compared to other computer languages, Python does not require a lot of codes to create specific functions. This trait makes it easy for programmers to use this language to create advanced tasks in Robotics.
Python is an interpreted language.
This means that the language operates in real-time on platforms that have an interpreter. This is convenient when you want to make small changes to your robotic application. You don’t have to recompile the codes every time you need modifications.
The disadvantage of this feature is the machine code must always translate Python for each execution. This makes the execution of tasks slower than in other programs.
- Python is free.
Guido van Rossum created Python and launched it in the early 90s. He named it after the comic group – Monty Python. Rossum designed Python to be free, and it still is until today. Python’s source code is accessible to anyone who wishes to learn and study it.
In addition, Python has a solid community of programmers who willingly share documentation on various platforms like StackOverflow and Github. Thus, you do not have to worry about paying for a license or support if you want to study Python specifically for robotics.
Python’s libraries offer convenience.
A Python library is a compilation of related modules that possess code batches useful in various programs. With Python libraries, you do not have to write codes from scratch or make them repeatedly if you want to have basic robot functionalities. At any point, you can pick from Python’s large collection of libraries, which are all free to use. These libraries are one of the reasons why Python makes robotics programming simple and more convenient.
Python is ideal for robotics testing and simulation.
Python is a great computer language if you want to create an accurate simulation of a mobile robot. You don’t have to work with a real robot structure because this language allows you to build a simple framework quickly and use it to practice your robotics programming skills.
Programming a simulated robot using Python is the same as programming a real robot. This trait makes Python ideal for situations where the focus is developing and testing robotic software as fast as possible rather than achieving optimum performance and enabling complicated tasks. Robotics school projects or prototype-making are situations where using Python works best. In these cases, time is limited, and the most important thing is for the robot program to operate properly. You may worry about boosting the performance better.
- Python is built-in on the Raspberry Pi
The Raspberry Pi is a popular physical computing board produced by the UK -based charity organization Raspberry Pi Foundation. It is a compact and affordable, Linux-based single-board computer designed to run advanced programs and algorithms.
You can attach this credit-card-sized computer board to your robot framework to function as the “brain” that controls a robot’s movements and reactions. It is also possible to connect a keyboard, mouse, monitor, and camera to Raspberry Pi.
Raspberry Pi’s operating system (Raspbian) comes with a pre-installed Python. Therefore, you do not need to worry about loading and compatibility issues. You can start writing Python on Raspberry Pi without any problem.
Python is less powerful than C++
The ultimate goal for real-world robots is to be able to automate complex tasks in various industries. This type of robot requires software with control signals that can perform complex computations and operate at high speed. In this case, most experts prefer the C++ programming language instead of Python. This is because C++ can develop applications that optimize robot performance. On the other hand, Python is more suited for simpler robotic applications.
However, Python can still be an excellent complement to C++ as you can bind the two languages together in one program. It is possible to use Python to develop the non-critical components of your program. Because Python is faster to code, you can develop and test the components of your software with this language. If in case the Python components are too slow, you have the option to switch them to C++ later on.
Python is ideal not just for building and testing robots. It is an excellent platform to teach, automate, and process robot programs. With Python, you can write scripts that can record, calculate, and simulate a whole robot program. You can also quickly test whether your robot will respond correctly to input.
Python has limitations when it comes to maximizing robotic speed and performance. Thus, you will need to learn more robust programming languages like C++ to take your coding projects to the next level. Regardless, Python’s simplicity, flexibility, and ease of use make it worth learning, and the reasons why it remains one of the top programming languages in robotics.
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