It is quite challenging and costly to build up a robot lab, especially if you just want to conduct some experiments with sensors and a moving platform. In todays search of affordable robot platforms, I discovered MORSE, a simulation platform built on the blender game engine (www.openrobots.org/wiki/morse/). This article will show how to set it up, select an environment, add sensors and read from them.
It already has the infrastructure, several environments and pre-built robots, sensors (camera, GPS, laserscanner, IR, etc.) and actuators to play with, and it can be installed directly via apt (Ubuntu + Debian). It took me less than an hour to skim through the tutorials, set up a basic environment, add a laser-range sensor to an existing robot and visualize the results, pretty amazing! (You can find all of my project files here: https://github.com/TobiasWeis/morse-robot-simulation)