Design of autonomous underwater robots is particularly difficult due to the physical and sensor challenges of the underwater environment. Inaccessibility during operation and low probability of failure recovery makes robot stability and reliability paramount. Building an accurate and complete virtual world simulation is proposed as a necessary prerequisite for design of an autonomous underwater robot. A virtual world can include actual robot components and models for all other aspects of the world. Robot design can be fully tested using a virtual world and then verified using the real world. Additional testing can be performed in the virtual world that is not feasible in the real world. Visualization of robot interactions within a virtual world permits sophisticated analysis of robot performance that is otherwise unavailable. All aspects of world modeling and robot design must be mastered and coordinated in order to build an authentic virtual world and capable autonomous robot.