By Brian Heater

Simulators have been a godsend when it comes to testing robots. Real-world testing is lengthy, expensive and potentially dangerous, so anything you can do to work out as many kinks as possible ahead of time is a big win. Isaac Sim has thus far proven a success for Nvidia, as the chipmaker has looked to aggressively enter the world of robotics and automation, while roboticists search for a way to run simulations of real-life working conditions.

Today at CES, the company announced some key improvements to the system. Accessible via the cloud for robotics developers everywhere, the system is adding a very important piece of the puzzle: humans. Well, virtual humans. After all, for all the talk about robots replacing human jobs, the two are going to be working side by side for the foreseeable future.

“To minimize the difference between results observed in a simulated world versus those seen in the real world,” Nvidia notes, “it’s imperative to have physically accurate sensor models.”

People shouldn’t be considered obstacles, exactly, but it’s important to hew to as close to that first Asimov law as possible. Humans in the sim are tasked with the same sort of roles you’d find human workers filling — stuff like pushing carts and stacking packages. Robots need to do their job without colliding with their much-softer co-workers.

The system is also adding the ability to render real-time sensor data, built atop Nvidia’s RTX tech. That includes lidar simulation with ray tracing to better simulate different lighting conditions and the impact of reflective materials. Different existing robots and warehouse parts can also be added in, to properly re-create the setting for fulfillment systems.

Isaac Sim supports ROS 2 Humble and Windows, as well as existing Isaac ROS software. The new platform features are available to use starting today.