Two-Legged Robot From Michigan Smoothly Walks Across Uneven, Unstable Terrain

Posted: May 8 2016, 4:06am CDT | by , Updated: May 8 2016, 10:29pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Two-Legged Robot from Michigan Smoothly Walks Across Uneven, Unstable Terrain
Credit: Evan Dougherty, Michigan Engineering

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The robot named MARLO uses algorithms to navigate rugged terrains and is capable of 3D walking, meaning walking in any direction.

The University of Michigan has a bipedal robot that can conquer steep slopes and walk through rugged and unstable terrain. It does that all without any guidance from a human controller.

The robot named MARLO is a joint venture of University of Michigan's Jessy Grizzle and Oregon State University's Jonathan Hurst. It is powered by algorithms that help the two-legged robot navigate difficult, uneven surfaces with relative ease. MARLO is capable of walking on all directions on its own and the approach is called 3D walking while the previous robot created by the same team could move in only two directions.

“Getting a robot to walk well in 3D can be a very frustrating process,” said Xingye (Dennis) Da, who designed the control algorithm by using two 2D algorithms. “The method could help many researchers speed up the process of achieving stable walking on their robots,”

In the demonstration, an unstable terrain was made with randomly stacked plywood squares covered with astroturf with scattered soft and hard foams and weight above it and then robot was allowed to walk across it. One control algorithm manages forward and backward motion and balance while the second controller handles side to side balance. Plus, it has a library of 15 pre-programmed gaits to adjust the walking speed with ground height and to make the robot walking as smooth as possible.

Though robot managed to walk stable and impressive but the approach has its inherent limitations. The robot is not truly agile when it comes to make quick turns and sideways movements.

“The robot has no feeling in her tiny feet, but she senses the angles of her joints – for instance, her knee angles, hip angles and the rotation angle of her torso," said Professor Jessy Grizzle. “It’s like walking blindfolded and on stilts.”

Researchers are working on the robot and their ultimate goal is develop more efficient control algorithms. So the robot can walk on a wide range of terrains, speeds and directions with more agility and reliable movements in real-life conditions.

“We are able to design full 3D walking gaits using a mathematical model of the robot and then apply them directly to Marlo,” said Brent Griffin, one of the designers of the algorithms. “Because the implementation works without any robot specific modifications, it is generalizable to other walking robots.”

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