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Top 8 Programming Languages for Robotics

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09/11/2021 |

7 min read

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Robotics brings together scientific and engineering disciplines to develop artificial embodied capabilities with the degree of autonomy. 

Any system that includes sensors, power supplies, control systems, manipulators, and software that performs the task of generating some action is a robot. 

Robotics is a rapidly evolving field that requires input from all kinds of disciplines - including software engineering for robot programming. So, what kind of programming languages are the best fit for those who would like to grow their careers in the robotics industry?

Read this article to see which technologies are the top choices of professionals working in the field today and which potential languages you should learn to launch a successful career in robotics.

 

Table of contents:

  1. Is a programming language for robotics different from other programming languages?
  2. Top 8 programming languages for robotics
  3. Interested in a career in robotics programming?

Is a programming language for robotics different from other programming languages?

You might be wondering whether robotics makes use of languages that aren’t used in any other field. Luckily, that’s not the case. The most popular programming languages used in the field of robotics today are C, C++, Python, Java, C#, .NET, and others.

Apart from the Hardware Description Languages, they’re all used by software engineers across every industry. So, knowing them will come in handy if you’re transitioning to robotics from a software development career.

But whether you’re a senior or a newbie, it pays to pick the languages that get you where you want to be in robotics and put your career on the right track.   

8 top programming languages for robotics 

1. C/C++

C and C++ are the two main programming languages used in robotics. They offer a great variety and number of tools, libraries, and functions that are useful in robotics. That’s why C and C++ are the top robotics languages today.

Most aspiring robotics engineers use them to program robots efficiently and ensure their high performance. If you’d like to build a career in the field of robotics, learning C and C++ is a great move. They’re also considered as very mature programming languages for robotics purposes because they enable easy interaction with low-level hardware that robots need.

If the robotics device in question has limitations in memory, then standard C programming language is a better technology choice. If the use of the C language isn't dictated by this condition, robotics developers usually use C++.

One of the greatest advantages of C++ is that the language controls the operating system’s API directly. This means that it doesn’t need any wrappers. This means that developers can use platform-specific libraries that work fast. 

 

2. Python

Python is becoming more and more popular today due to its simple syntax, excellent documentation, and massive community. Since the language is easy to use, it requires less time for developers to learn it. And when you compare Python to other object-oriented programming languages such as C, C++, or Java, you’ll see that it saves you a lot of time when it comes to writing code.

However, Python projects can get a little too complicated because it’s an interpreted language - spotting errors could become an issue. Still, Python is a high-level programming language that is extensively used for developing systems used in robotics applications.

The language comes with a handful of useful features that make it a key player in the robotics scene. Some examples that show Python's strengths in robotics are Arduino or Raspberry Pi used for designing embedded systems.

Python is also surrounded by a rich ecosystem of libraries and packages that help to automate lots of things and save developers plenty of time because they don’t have to build functionalities from scratch. That can make a real difference in a robotics project. 

 

3. Java

Most universities that offer robotics courses include Java as a must-have programming language. Java is today used to build many high-level features that are required in robotics programming.

The Java Virtual Machine interprets instructions during the runtime of the code in a both fast and reliable manner. It’s a battle-tested and secure technology that offers special features to robotics for performing human-like tasks. For example, speech API or the Java Media framework are used to receive and process visual images. 

 

4. Microsoft C#/.NET

C# is a proprietary programming language provided by Microsoft. It’s often used in the Microsoft Robotics developer studio – and that’s why it deserves a mention here. Today, C# is considered one of the key languages for aspiring programmers in the robotics field. It gives you a solid foundation to branch out into different areas, including robotics.

In general, C# and .NET are used at the port and socket level programming. That’s why they can also be used to implement neural network systems better than Java thanks to superior libraries for programming robots. 

Note: Microsoft also developed Visual Programming Language (VPL) for the Microsoft Robotics Studio - it's a handy visual and dataflow programming language.

 

5. MATLAB

This high-performance language for technical computing integrates many things together programming, visualization, and computation. They are all served in an easy to use environment where developers can express problems and solutions in familiar mathematical notations.

MATLAB is quite popular among beginner developers and often used for analyzing information and building control systems. It also comes in handy for modeling and simulation.

MATLAB is an easy-to-use language that helps to eliminate implementation errors by allowing developers to identify problems already during the prototyping phase instead of later in the production (which is more costly). 

 

6. Lisp 

One of the earliest programming languages, Lisp was originally developed for applied mathematical notation implemented in computer programs. However, you will find that many critical sections of the robot operating system are written in Lisp. That’s why it has also become a crucial language for the domain of artificial intelligence.

Learning Lisp is a great start for stepping into the field of robotics. The language offers developers plenty of features such as automatic data storage management, dynamic typing, tree data structures, recursion, elevated order functions, conditionals, read-eval-print loops, self-hosting compilers, and many others. 

 

7. Basic and Pascal

Basic and Pascal are fundamental scripts that work across multiple industrial robot languages.

Basic and Pascal are currently outmoded by other trends and technologies but are still useful for beginners to understand the functionality and technicalities of robotics programming. 

 

8. Hardware description languages (HDLs)

This group of computer languages is used by developers to program electronic and digital logic circuits. Naturally, they’re extremely useful for anyone who wants to delve deep into the robotics industry. Hardware description languages are used to specify the gates and chips, as well as simulate the behaviors of the resulting chip specifications in a hardware simulator.

Hardware description languages blur the distinction between software and hardware development thanks to design tools that allow developing real-time imaging hardware.

Unlike the other languages that we mentioned above, HDLs require excellent knowledge of electronics since most of the operations are concurrent processor-based. These languages provide simple object orientation and garbage accumulation compared to other technologies. 

Interested in a career in robotics programming?

The field of robotics is rapidly expanding as more and more organizations invest in digital technologies to automate their processes, streamline their work, and develop new products for customers.

Industries ranging from manufacturing to retail are now interested in robotics, so the field is a great career choice for anyone. Mastering one or more of the best programming languages listed above is critical for entering this highly specialized and exciting industry.

Do you know any of the languages listed above? Did they help you to launch your career in robotics? What other programming skills do developers need to become successful in robotics? 

Please share your thoughts in the comments to help beginners understand what it takes to succeed here and take the robotics field by storm.

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