On the use of simulation in robotics: Opportunities, challenges, and suggestions formoving forward

Hee Sun Choi, Cindy Crump, Christian Duriez, Asher Elmquist, Gregory Hager, David Han, Frank Hearl, Jessica Hodgins, Abhinandan Jain, Frederick Leve, Chen Li, Franziska Meier, Dan Negrut, Ludovic Righetti, Alberto Rodriguez, Jie Tan, Jeff Trinkle

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The last five years marked a surge in interest for and use of smart robots, which operate in dynamic and unstructured environments and might interact with humans. We posit that well-validated computer simulation can provide a virtual proving ground that in many cases is instrumental in understanding safely, faster, at lower costs, and more thoroughly how the robots of the future should be designed and controlled for safe operation and improved performance. Against this backdrop, we discuss how simulation can help in robotics, barriers that currently prevent its broad adoption, and potential steps that can eliminate some of these barriers. The points and recommendations made concern the following simulation-in-robotics aspects: simulation of the dynamics of the robot; simulation of the virtual world; simulation of the sensing of this virtual world; simulation of the interaction between the human and the robot; and, in less depth, simulation of the communication between robots. This Perspectives contribution summarizes the points of view that coalesced during a 2018 National Science Foundation/Department of Defense/National Institute for Standards and Technology workshop dedicated to the topic at hand. The meeting brought together participants from a range of organizations, disciplines, and application fields, with expertise at the intersection of robotics, machine learning, and physics-based simulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1907856118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 5 2021


  • Controls
  • Design
  • Machine learning
  • Robotics
  • Simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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