The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 3
Researchers take the next
steps robotic technology ! .
By Ankit Sur
Daily Staff Reporter
From building cars to exploring other planets, robots
have proven to be useful partners in advancing human
achievement. These magnificent machines have been
the focus of many movies, in which they are depicted as
mimicking their human counterparts by walking, talk-
ing and behaving like human beings.
With the latest breakthrough in robotics technology,
robots may actually be capable of what many modern
movies have depicted, and thus become even more
indispensable to our society.
University Electrical Engineering Professor Jessy
Grizzle and a team of French scientists have designed a
robot called RABBIT that can perfectly mimic human
When RABBIT is nudged it can regain its balance
instantly, which prevents it from falling over like its
predecessors would have done.
Grizzle and the other researchers were able to accom-
plish this feat due to Grizzle's "control theory."
"We have designed virtual constraints that synchro-
nize the robots' knees and hips," Grizzle said.
According to Grizzle, when the robot starts to walk,
its leg moves forward and the robot synchronizes its
hips and knees in a way that prevents it from falling. A
control algorithm monitors the robot's walking motion,
and adjusts the legs accordingly.
The leg that moves forward then becomes the load
bearing leg, and the other leg swings forward about the
knee, which acts as a pivot - the same way a human
would take a step.
Using this simple technique, the robot is able to walk
gracefully at 3.9 mph.
"We were able to design a control algorithm that
Continued from page 1
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was able to mimic human walking by defining the way
humans walk into a set of equations, which we then
translated into control algorithms that controls the
robots ability to walk and balance," Grizzle explained.
While current bi-pedal robots have large feet to avoid
falling over, RABBIT has stilt-like legs instead of feet.
RABBIT's predecessors had large feet to achieve
proper balance, due to a lack of knowledge in walking
dynamics. However, Grizzle said that RABBIT's more
complex algorithm, which is the result of more thorough
analysis, helps remedy the stiff walking pattern that
other robots display.
Grizzle's work has a promising future in the develop-
ment of human prosthetics.
"We can use what we have learned in developing
RABBIT and apply it to human beings," Grizzle said.
Eric Westervelt, an engineering professor at Ohio
State University, is currently working to apply the
knowledge learned in developing RABBIT to the design
of human prosthetics. Grizzle said.
Westervelt said the theory used by the controllers of
RABBIT will be helpful in designing prosthetics.
Companies that produce prosthetics, such as Ohio
Willow Wood, have taken interest in Westervelt's work
and plan to use the findings of his analysis to build a
Westervelt joined Grizzle and the team of French sci-
entists in 2000, when the was a Rackham student at the
Grizzle joined the team in 1998, and he plans to build
a robot like RABBIT at the University because RABBIT
currently resides in France.
"We plan to start building a robot that will be able
to walk and run more efficiently than RABBIT in three
or four months, and it should be completed in a year,"
The robot, pictured above, imitates human walking patterns, and can reach
speeds of 3.9 mph. The new technology presents the potential for many different
uses in the future.
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