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.