Designed for use with the LEGO® MINDSTORMS EV3, the Virtual Robotics Toolkit™ is a physics enabled robotics simulator. The simulator allows users to drive their own virtual robot, but without the burden of ever needing space for testing, or running out of physical bricks.
There are many benefits of adding simulation capability to the MINDSTORMS® experience, but a few of the more compelling reasons are given below:
Perhaps the most obvious benefit is that by using a simulated robot we can write programs to work with the robot, even if it isn’t physically available. For example, your robotics club might only have a single MINDSTORMS® robot, but the whole team could be working and programming on a digital version of that same competition robot from home. When it comes to environments, simulation offers a much greater variety of challenges than would ever be physically possible. Although it might be too expensive to test our robot in the near-weightless of space, we could easily simulate it.
This tool can be especially useful to those who are interested in teaching with robots, but who lack enough physical kits for each student in their class, and for robotics clubs who are looking for an excellent prototyping utility to help give them the edge over the competition.
The Virtual Robotics Toolkit began its life 12 years ago, as a tool for researchers and engineers. Back then the idea was simple, before investing time and money in building an expensive real robot, perhaps it would be advantageous to have some way of testing on a digital prototype.
As a result, the Cogmation simulator was born, and its earliest versions targeted expensive robots used primarily in academia, such as the Aldebaran® Nao™ and the iRobot® Packbot™.
Of course, creating a great design tool was just part of the solution. What we had really hoped for, was to use the simulator to teach robotics itself; and if that were the goal, then why not work with a robot specifically designed for the beginner? Why not design the simulator to work with a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robot?