The 5 best coding languages for robotics

March 12, 2024
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The top 5 best coding languages for robotics

Looking for the TL;DR? Here are the best 5 coding languages for robotics enthusiasts: 

  • No-code programming: A simple drag-and-drop interface that allows total beginners to easily program the most complex robotic behaviors with zero coding knowledge. 
  • C++: Offers maximum control and performance, ideal for complex robotics, with low-level hardware access but a steep learning curve.
  • Python: Beginner-friendly, with extensive libraries for robotics and AI; not as fast as C++, but great for hobby projects.
  • Java: Cross-platform and object-oriented, with broad support; more verbose and slightly slower, suitable for larger projects.
  • MATLAB: Excellent for simulations, prototyping, and data analysis with specialized toolboxes; proprietary and costly, less suited for deployment on robots.

No-code programming - the future, today

If coding isn't your forte, don't worry - no-code robotics platforms are making programming accessible to everyone. 

And we know this may seem like a massive epiphany to you: “I can program robots without needing to code?” Yes, due to massive advances in AI, you can.

Here’s how it happens: 

  • Drag-and-drop simplicity: No-code platforms let you piece together robotics systems easily. Think snapping blocks together in a puzzle to make your robot do cool stuff, like moving or turning, without writing any code.
  • Pre-built code blocks: Picture these LEGO pieces for programming. Need your robot to move forward or turn left? Just grab the block, drop it in, and you’re set.
  • Special tools for robot builders: Platforms like Mblock and Micro:bit are excellent for working with Arduino and Raspberry Pi. And for linking your robot to other apps or gadgets, Zapier and Integromat are your go-to.
  • Easy start, rewarding challenge: Starting is super easy but there’s plenty of room to grow. You’ll flex your problem-solving muscles to create sophisticated automations and behaviors, all without the traditional coding headache.
  • Kickstart your entry into robotics: These no-code options crack open the door to technology for everyone, making it possible to bring your robotic dreams to life, even if you don’t know a function from a flanger. 

C++ - Classic, reliable, powerful

C++ is considered the "granddaddy" of robotics languages for good reason. Developed in 1983, it gives you granular control over hardware and system resources, making it ideal for robotics applications where performance and efficiency matter.

Check out what it can do: 

  • As powerful as they come. C++ compiles to native machine code, so your programs can operate at lightning speeds. When microseconds count in robotics, this high performance is crucial. C++ also provides low-level memory management, allowing you to optimize how your robot allocates and deallocates resources.
  • Old, not obsolete. After over 35 years of use, C++ has a maturity and stability that newer languages can't match. An enormous collection of open-source robotics libraries and frameworks are available for C++, so you can build on the work of experts. Why code motion planning from scratch when you can use a library?

Python - a beginner-friendly robot programming language

Python is considered one of the best programming languages for beginners to learn robotics. It's simple and easy-to-read syntax allows you to focus on learning programming concepts rather than struggling with complex code.

Here’s why it’s so great: 

  • Easy peasy. Python has a gentle learning curve, with simplified syntax and not too many rules to remember. You can start building basic robotics programs in just a few hours of learning the basics. 
  • Very powerful libraries. While easy to get started with, Python is also a powerful language used by many tech giants. It has a vast collection of libraries for robotics, computer vision, neural networks, and more. Libraries like NumPy, SciPy, and OpenCV are frequently used in robotics and artificial intelligence projects.

Versatile across many platforms. Python code can run on many operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Linux, and Unix. This means the robotics programs you build with Python can easily be used on different platforms and hardware.

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MATLAB - #1 for mathematical robotics programming

MATLAB is a popular programming language for robotics, especially when complex mathematics and algorithms are involved. If you want to program advanced robot behaviors, vision systems or navigation, MATLAB is a great choice.

Check out its features: 

  • A super powerful set of tools. MATLAB offers many built-in functions for robotics, computer vision, and signal processing. You have access to toolboxes for robotics, image processing, neural networks, and more. These toolboxes provide tested functions so you can avoid reinventing the wheel.
  • Math-focused. MATLAB was designed for numerical computing and matrix manipulations. If you want to implement complex control systems, computer vision algorithms or AI for robotics, MATLAB is well-suited for the task. You can prototype algorithms quickly without worrying about low-level details.
  • Used very widely. MATLAB is commonly used in robotics research and in industry. Many robotics companies use MATLAB to develop and test control systems before implementing them on robots. If you learn MATLAB, you'll have a skill that applies directly to robotics jobs.
  • Steep learning curve, though! While MATLAB is a powerful language, it does have a steep learning curve. The syntax is quite different from languages like Python or C++. If you're new to programming, MATLAB may feel foreign. 

Java - cross-platform robot coding

Java. The mere name instills a sense of respect and with good reason. Java is enduringly popular, and we can’t fault the world for its widespread adoption.

Check out some of its features: 

  • Very easy to pick up. Java is one of the most popular programming languages, used by over 9 million developers worldwide. Its syntax is simple and easy to learn, even for beginners. Java code is also relatively easy to read and understand compared to other languages. 
  • Runs on any system, pretty much. A major benefit of Java is that it is platform-independent. Java code can run on Windows, Mac, Linux, and more without needing to be recompiled. This means that robots programmed in Java have the flexibility to operate on different systems.

    The Java Virtual Machine (JVM) abstracts away any dependencies on the underlying platform.
  • Ginormous library. Java has a vast collection of open-source libraries which provide ready-made functionality for robotics applications. Libraries like AWT, Swing, and JavaFX can be used to create robot control interfaces.

    The OpenCV library provides extensive image processing capabilities for computer vision in robots. There are also libraries for artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analysis which can enhance a robot’s functionality.
  • Safe and secure. Java is a type-safe language with no pointer manipulation, so there is less chance of memory errors. It’s also a secure language that runs code in a sandbox, protecting against vulnerabilities.

    Why are these important? Because robots interact with the physical world, and you don’t want to run into the risk of hacking, for instance. 


What programming language is best for robotics?

There are a few popular options for programming robots, but two languages stand out: C++ and Python. C++ is considered the most capable robot programming language. It gives you maximum control and optimization for performance.

However, it has a steep learning curve. Python is a simpler, more beginner-friendly language used by many robotics companies and makers. It has lots of libraries for robotics and is easy to read and write. Either language is a great choice to get started with robotics programming.

How difficult is it to learn robot programming?

Learning to program robots can be challenging, but it is accessible to beginners. The difficulty depends on which language and skills you want to learn. Robotics combines software programming with knowledge of mechanical systems, electronics, and more.

The key is to start simple. Focus on basic programming concepts, simple robot designs, and open-source software libraries. As you practice, you'll build up your knowledge and skills over time. Many resources are available to help you learn, from interactive tutorials and courses to a huge open-source community.

Summing up

Those are the top 5 best coding languages for robotics in 2024. Each language brings something special to the table, whether it's C++'s raw speed and control, Python's ease of use, or MATLAB's built-in tools. 

The right choice depends on your needs and experience level. And remember - while coding is crucial, you can now get surprisingly far into robotics with no-code solutions too. The field keeps advancing every year.

Whatever language you end up using, programming robots is an exciting way to bring your imagination to life. 

Next steps

Want to ramp up your production game? RO1 from Standard Bots delivers an innovative no-code robot arm that's changing the game for both rising startups and established market leaders.

  • Affordable innovation: Priced at just half the cost of similar offerings, it makes advanced automation accessible to businesses of every size.
  • Redefining performance standards: RO1 sets new highs with its Six-Axis Industrial Robot Arm, boasting a hefty 18 kg payload and leading in speed and accuracy.
  • Built-in safety: RO1 comes with the latest sensors and safety systems for worry-free Collaborative use.
  • Learning and adaptability: At the cutting edge of automation, RO1 utilizes its advanced AI, on par with GPT-4, to understand its surroundings, and tackle new challenges with ease, all within a no-code framework that requires no programming knowledge. 

Try RO1 risk-free for 30 days. Our support team is ready to help you integrate RO1's game-changing features smoothly into your operations.

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