NRP Glossary


Brain and Body Integrator, the configuration of transfer functions through a simple and eventually graphical syntax. See BIBI Configuration File Format for details.

Brain comm. adapter

The adapter that is used by the TF framework to connect with the neuronal simulation, e.g. to create suitable devices to connect with the parameters of a TF

Braitenberg Vehicle

A Braitenberg vehicle is a concept conceived in a thought experiment by the Italian-Austrian cyberneticist Valentino Braitenberg: Wikipedia

Closed Loop Controller

The Closed Loop Controller, for the reference see CLE architecture

Closed Loop Engine

The Closed Loop Engine is the middleware putting all the pieces of the Neurorobotics Platofmr together on the server. In particular, it is connecting Gazebo and NEST through our Transfer Functions mechanism. For more information on CLE, use the dedicated tutorials and developer pages. The architecture of the CLE can be found here.

Communication Object

Communication object is the generalization of neuronal network devices and robot publishers and subscribers. Thus, it represents objects that are accessed by the TF framework to connect parameters of a TF with a simulation in either way.


In neuronal simulation, devices are little programs that are injected into a neuronal network and run with the same clock as the neuronal simulation and can be accessed from outside. A typical example is a leaky integrator that basically returns the voltage of a neuron. The brain adapters of the CLE e.g. to PyNN do inject such devices into the neuronal network. However, within the TF framework, we also refer to the adapter objects that connect these devices with the TF framework devices, so we identify these adapters with the devices that they adapt. Devices may be either spike sinks or spike sources, i.e. either consume spikes of connected neurons or create spikes (or currents) and send them to connected neurons. Examples of spike sinks are leaky integrators that are essentially neurons that do not spike (infinite threshold voltage) but whose voltage is then accessed by the robot. Examples of spike sources are either current generators (AC, NC or DC source) or Poisson based spike generators.

Device Group

For brain simulators, it is often infeasible to work with single devices but whole groups. Consider for example an image recognition. If every pixel would be a spike generator device, the TF would need a number of parameters depending on the image resolution. A device group is a group of such devices that groups all these devices that logically belong together.


Docker is a set of platform as a service (PaaS) products that use OS-level virtualization to deliver software in packages called containers. Containers are isolated from one another and bundle their own software, libraries and configuration files; they can communicate with each other through well-defined channels. Because all of the containers share the services of a single operating system kernel, they use fewer resources than virtual machines. Use the `Docker installation guides<>`__ for your system. If you’re using Linux OS, for your convenience, we recommend to `allow the Docker to run as non-root user<>`__.


Experiment (Designer) Backend


is a use case, combining a brain, a robot and an environment.

Web Cockpit
NRP Frontend

The browser-based user interface for interaction with the NRP. Use the section in the user manual in order to get familiar with it. Developers might look at ExDFrontend in NRP Repositories, which implements the main functionality of the Frontend.

Gazebo simulator

Gazebo is an open-source 3D robotics simulator. NRP uses a fork of the Gazebo project of version 11. Developers may refer Gazebo in NRP Repositories and also also dedicated Gazebo developer page.


Web interface for Gazebo using WebGL. Consisting of gzbridge (server) and gz3d (client), see

Human Brain Project

The Human Brain Project (HBP) is one of the three FET (Future and Emerging Technology) Flagship projects. Started in 2013, it is one of the largest research projects in the world . More than 500 scientists and engineers at over than 140 universities, teaching hospitals, and research centres across Europe come together to address one of the most challenging research targets – the human brain. Read more about HBP.

Husky robot

Popular robot platform, i.e., you can read ROS wiki


NEST is the neuronal simulator that we currently use by default, see

Neurorobotics Platform

The Neurorobotics Platform’s purpose is to offer neuroscientists a tool to perform in-silico cognitive or lower-level neural experiments on virtual Guinea pigs, be them biologically inspired or not. It will, on the other side, provide roboticists with the possibility to experiment on their robots with brain models instead of classical controllers.


OpenID Connect is an authentication layer on top of OAuth 2.0, an authorization framework. In the NRP it used to authenticate you through HBP services. About the accessing NRP read here.


OpenSim is a freely available, user extensible software system that lets users develop models of musculoskeletal structures and create dynamic simulations of movement. We use a fork of the official repository (look for opensim in NRP Repositories). The project web-site


An interface for neuronal simulators, see


Representational State Transfer, design principle for web interfaces

Robot comm. adapter

The adapter that is used by the TF framework to connect with the robot simulation, e.g. to create suitable robot subscribers and robot publishers in accordance with the used input.

Robot Publisher

A robot publisher is the equivalent of a spike source device on the robot side, but only for sending data to the robot. As we are currently using ROS, robot publishers are really ROS publishers sending data to some Gazebo topics.

Robot Subscriber

A robot subscriber is the equivalent of a spike sink device, i.e. it is a port for the incoming data.


Web interface for ROS using WebSockets, see

Simulation Description Format

XML file format that describes environments, objects, and robots in a manner suitable for robotic applications. SDF is capable of representing and describing different physic engines, lighting properties, terrain, static or dynamic objects, and articulated robots with various sensors, and acutators. The format of SDF is also described by XML, which facilitates updates and allows conversion from previous versions. A parser is also contained within this package that reads SDF files and returns a C++ interface. NRP uses a special SDFormat parser to handle these files.


Simbody is useful for internal coordinate and coarse grained molecule modeling, large scale mechanical models like skeletons, and anything else that can be modeled as bodies interconnected by joints, acted upon by forces, and restricted by constraints. We use a fork of the official repository (look for simbody in NRP Repositories). The project web-site


is an instance of an experiment, launched by a particular user, at a certain time, with a predefined.


is a task-level architecture for rapidly creating complex robot behavior. At its core, SMACH is a ROS-independent Python library to build hierarchical state machines. SMACH is a new library that takes advantage of very old concepts in order to quickly create robust robot behavior with maintainable and modular code.

Transfer Function

A function that interconnects the neuronal simulator with a (currently simulated) robot. This includes the function itself as well as annotation how to connect its parameters to the neuronal simulation or to the robot simulation. Thus, TFs are end to end and cannot be stacked together. However, their functional specification (the body) can be stacked.

TF node
TF manager

An organizational unit for the TFs. The terms TF node and TF manager are used interchangeably. Each TF must be connected to exactly one TF manager that manages its execution. By default, this is the currently active instance.


The URDF (U-Robot Description Format) library provides core data structures and a simple XML parsers for populating the class data structures from an URDF file. Read more on project pages

Virtual Coach

The Virtual Coach is a Python API that allows you to run and interact with experiments by scripting them instead of having to use the Web Cockpit. Find more information on the Virtual Coach in the dedicated developer pages, tutorials and code API reference.


World Simulation Engine, the generalization of the robot simulation. We currently use Gazebo (see through a ROS (see interface as our World Simulation Engine.