Three research teams from the universities of Cornell, Delft (Netherlands) and MIT have succeeded in building robots whose steps and movement resemble the way humans walk. These new advances in robotics could transform current robot design and control systems, and could be applied to the development of robotic prosthetics.
The three robots built in the aforementioned universities are all derived from the same principle: they represent an extension of several years of research in robots whose movement system has a passive dynamic design. Passive dynamically designed robots are capable of going downhill without a motor and their design was inspired by the type of mobile toy that has been around for over a hundred years.
Programming the Cornell and Delft robots is very easy, because much of the control problem is solved through the mechanical design of the robot. The MIT robot uses a learning program that takes advantage of this design and allows the robot to teach itself to walk in less than 20 minutes. Precisely his nickname, "Toddler" (the English term for a toddler who begins to walk) is derived from his ability to learn to walk and the way he does it.
This robot model is one of the first robots to use a learning program and it is the first to walk without having previously implanted information in its controls. In addition, the learning system allows the robot to move effectively on a variety of surfaces and, in the future, could allow it to move over very rocky terrain. This is because the program runs so fast that the robot can continuously adapt to the type of terrain.
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Original PhysOrg article