MORSE is a versatile simulator for robotics
MORSE is an generic simulator for academic robotics. It focuses on realistic simulation of small to large environments, indoor or outdoor, with one to over a dozen of autonomous robots.
MORSE provides out of the box a set of standard sensors (cameras, laser scanner, GPS, odometry,...), actuators (speed controllers, high-level waypoints controllers, generic joint controllers) and robotic bases (ATRV, generic 4 wheel vehicle, PR2,...). New ones can easily be added.
One of the main design choice for MORSE is the ability to control the degree of realism of the simulation: if you are working on vision, you need accurate camera sensors, but may not care about the realism of your motion controller, and you may find a waypoint controller good enough (and easier to use). On the contrary, if you work on robot supervision, you may prefer skip the perception stack and directly work with objects ID and positions.
MORSE lets you define how realistic the different components of you robot need to be to fit your needs.
MORSE has a powerful workflow
MORSE has an original workflow: since it uses Blender and the Blender Game Engine as runtime, it benefits from the tight integration of these two tools.
You build your simulation in Blender by assembling together components to create one or several robots (like an empty ATRV robot base with a camera, a laser scanner and a waypoints actuator - once complete, you can of course save it) and an environment (like an indoor lab room with tables and chairs, or an outdoor environment with a village, etc. A couple of them are provided to start with).
Then, switching forth and back from the edit mode (where you build your robot and 3D environment) to the simulation itself is instantaneous and a matter of pressing the P or Esc key. Debugging or tuning your simulation scenario is a breeze.
And for people who do not like too much GUIs, MORSE also provides a complete Python API to programatically create your environments and robots, and run the simulation from the command line.
Once started, robots, sensors, actuators are accessible from outside through your usual middleware. In most cases, you can just run your code as you would do it on the real robot.
MORSE adapts to your architecture
MORSE do not make any assumption on your architecture. MORSE currently supports out of the box 4 common open-source middlewares (ROS, YARP, Pocolibs and MOOS) plus offers a generic socket-based communication channel.
MORSE offers a large set of standard sensors and actuators. To even better adapt to your specific need, MORSE provides a lightweigthed overlay mechanism to quickly change the name and types of exchanged data flows.
You should hopefully be able to integrate MORSE in your own architecture without any modifications to your existing components.
Lastly, MORSE benefits from Blender import/export capabilities: existing models in many 3D formats (Collada, DXF, 3DS Max, VRML... to name a few) can be used to build robots and environments.
MORSE is a realistic simulator
MORSE rendering is based on the Blender Game Engine. The OpenGL-based Game Engine supports shaders, provides advanced lightning options, supports multi-texturing, and use the state-of-the-art Bullet library for physics simulation.
This enables MORSE users to create rich simulation environments, visually and physically plausible.
MORSE is scalable
MORSE can simulate complex robots in real time. //Give here an example of a complex robot with the computer power and corresponding framerate//.
MORSE has also been designed to be able to handle over a dozen of robots in joint simulation scenarii: to this end, MORSE can be run as a distributed network of simulation nodes. Each node automatically synchronizes with the others (however, due to latencies, do not expect to simulate accurate physical interactions in the distributed mode).
MORSE has specific features for human-robot interaction simulation
While designed as a generic simulation software, MORSE features several tools dedicated to human-robot interaction (HRI) simulation. MORSE provides a complete human rig, that can be controlled in first-person perspective.
In this mode, the user can look around, pick and place objects, move them, etc. The robot can access in return to the full human posture (similar to the Kinect output).
MORSE is easy to extend
MORSE is mostly written in Python: except for computation intensive processes (like 3D rendering or physics simulation), MORSE is a purely Python application. This enable easy and fast modification of the source code.
Besides, MORSE has been designed from the beginning to be modular: adding a new sensor, a new actuator, a post-processing (like applying a noise function), adding new services, or even a complete communication middleware is easy and documented.
And do not worry: we also provide examples of how to build and link to custom C module when computational power is required.
MORSE is well documented
Unlike numerous open-source projects, MORSE has a complete and up-to-date online documentation, both for the users and the developers: MORSE documentation. The PDF version of the manual has well over 100 pages.
Several tutorials are also available, for a quick start.
MORSE is easy to install
MORSE has only two dependencies: Python (plus Sphinx if you want to build the documentation on your computer) and Blender. While requiring fairly recent versions of these software, an up-to-date Linux distribution should provide out of the box all required dependencies.
MORSE installation is based on CMake, and allows you to only install support for parts relevant to your needs (why installing YARP support if you are using ROS?).
MORSE is also available as a robotpkg <http://robotpkg.openrobots.org> package: robotpkg is a package manager for robotics related software that will take care automatically of all dependencies required by MORSE.
MORSE is open-source
MORSE and all the libraries it relies on are open-source projects.
This means that you can not only use it at no cost, but also access to the source code to modify it if you wish so.
MORSE itself is licensed under a permissive BSD license: you can use it for any purposes, without having to share your modifications back.
This also means that MORSE follows a open development process: you can fork MORSE source code on GitHub and everybody is invited to propose new features, report bugs and submit patches.
MORSE is baked by a vivid community
These two huge open-source projects are very active and are supported by large communities of users and developers.
This means tons of tutorials, code examples, reusable snippets, etc.
This also ensures that, even if the MORSE core team would disappear, you would still be able to ask for support!
MORSE is driven by academics requirements
MORSE is born at LAAS-CNRS, a public French laboratory, one of the biggest in robotics.
Currently, over five universities and institutes (in Germany, USA, France) have joined the effort and collaboratively take part to the future of MORSE.
Most of the new features and developments come from actual requirements for research in robotics, and the road-map may look a bit chaotic for this very reason.
MORSE has even limitations!
Last but not least, MORSE has some important limitations you must be aware of when assessing simulation solutions:
- MORSE was never meant to be a physically accurate simulator: while we rely on a state-of-the-art physics engine (Bullet), do not expect to accurately simulate robot arm dynamics or fine grasping. Other projects are doing that much better (like Gazebo or OpenGrasp).
- While on-going efforts try to tackle this issue, we do not consider MORSE to have a good enough temporal accuracy and time synchronization capabilities for application like hybrid simulation (where some robots are simulated while others are physically operated).
- MORSE is mostly developed and supported on Linux. MORSE is known to also run on MacOSX, but it has never been tested on Microsoft Windows (it should be however fairly easy to port it).
- As a not-for-profit, academic project, we do not offer any professional support beyond the documentation and the public mailing-lists.