An object-oriented robot independent programming environment (RIPE) developed at Sandia National Laboratories is being used for rapid design and implementation of a variety of intelligent machine applications. A system architecture based on hierarchies of distributed multiprocessors provides the computing platform for a layered programming structure that models work cell tasks as a set of software objects. These objects are designed to support model-based automated planning and programming, real-time sensor-based activity, and robust communication. The object-oriented paradigm provides mechanisms such as inheritance and polymorphism which allow the implementation of the system to satisfy the goals of software reusability, extensibility, reliability, and portability. By designing a hierarchy of generic parent classes and device-specific subclasses which inherit the same interface, a robot independent programming language (RIPL) is realized. Prototype systems for handling nuclear waste shipping casks, underground storage tank cleanup, nuclear weapons disassembly, and glove box access are successfully implemented using this object-oriented software environment.