Bipedal bots to star at AAAS media briefing

02/11/05

Novel, energy frugal robots walk like we do

A video press release is available here.



The Cornell passive-dynamic powered bipedal robot. Credit: Cornell University
Click here for a high resolution photograph.

In a Feb. 17 media briefing at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), members of three independent research teams will jointly unveiling a new breed of energy-efficient, two-legged, powered robots with a surprisingly human gait. The studies will be published in the journal Science on Feb. 18, 2005.

Researchers from Cornell University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and their colleagues from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, will display footage of all three bipedal robots and demonstrate the MIT biped.

"These innovations are a platform upon which others will build," says Michael Foster, NSF expert on computer and information science and engineering and one of the managers who oversaw this research. "This is the foundation for what we may see in robotic control in the future."

By applying concepts rooted in "passive-dynamic walkers"--devices that can walk down a shallow slope powered only by the pull of gravity--the engineers have crafted robots that, in the case of the Cornell biped, can walk on level ground yet use as little as one-half the wattage of a standard compact fluorescent bulb.

"The biped walking mechanism in robots is limited by on-board battery power," says Junku Yuh, NSF expert on intelligent systems, who also oversaw the research. "The Cornell team's passive mechanism helps greatly reduce the power requirement. Their work is very innovative."

Representing fundamental developments in computer and mechanical control, the robots are helping researchers understand bipedal motion and revealing processes that underlie human locomotion and motor learning. Applications are already on the horizon, with one researcher exploring how the new approach to robotics can aid development of increasingly energy-efficient prosthetic devices.

"This is a perfect example of a single concept yielding benefits in a variety of fields, including medicine," says NSF program officer Gil Devey, an NSF expert on disabilities research who also oversaw the projects.

The MIT walker provides a platform to study motor learning with a passive-dynamic design. In simple terms, the robot can teach itself to walk in as little as 10 minutes, adapting to terrain as it moves.

"This project is about the fundamentals of control," says Foster. "The researchers have combined our developing knowledge of computerized control with mechanical principles that the world provides for us and shown that we can integrate the two."

All three robots verify a long-held hypothesis that suggests motors can substitute for gravity in passive-dynamic walking devices. A slope is not required, only careful engineering.

Reporters interested in attending the press briefing should go to the Taft Room, Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Washington, D.C. Please arrive no later than 9:45 am to obtain a badge for the briefing. Be prepared to show a photo ID and press credentials.

A companion press release from Cornell University can be found at: http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/Feb05/AAAS.Ruina.bipedal .ws.html

A companion press release from MIT, and additional images, can be found at: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/index.html

Source: Eurekalert & others

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