Minimalist analogue robot discovers animal-like walking gaits

Smith, B J H and Usherwood, J R (2019) Minimalist analogue robot discovers animal-like walking gaits. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 15 (2).

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Abstract

Robots based on simplified or abstracted biomechanical concepts can be a useful tool for investigating how and why animals move the way they do. In this paper we present an extremely simple quadruped robot, which is able to walk with no form of software or controller. Instead, individual leg movements are triggered directly by switches on each leg which detect leg loading and unloading. As the robot progresses, pitching and rolling movements of its body result in a gait emerging with a consistent leg movement order, despite variations in stride and stance time. This gait has similarities to the gaits used by walking primates and grazing livestock, and is close to the gait which was recently theorised to derive from animal body geometry. As well as presenting the design and construction of the robot, we present experimental measurements of the robot's gait kinematics and ground reaction forces determined using high speed video and a pressure mat, and compare these to gait parameters of animals taken from literature. Our results support the theory that body geometry is a key determinant of animal gait at low speeds, and also demonstrate that steady state locomotion can be achieved with little to no active control.

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