(Image source: Institute of Physics)

 

BY STEVEN SPARKMAN

ANCHOR CARISSA LOETHEN

 

Researchers at the University of Arizona have built what they say are the most “biologically correct” pair of robot legs ever made.

 

A short video posted by the Institute of Physics shows the legs in action. The movements are a little stiff, but the articulated hip, knee and ankle joints all flex and move like a human’s.

 

Robots have been able to mimic human steps before, so what makes this one so special? It turns out the researchers didn’t just mimic human muscles and bones to make the legs walk — they also copied our neurons. A writer for TIME explains.

 

“The team gave the robot a computerized version of the neural network that humans use to move and groove, called the central pattern generator, or CPG. The network, which lies in the lower part of the spinal cord, gathers sensory information from other parts of the body … and then responds by producing rhythmic muscle signals.”

 

The CPG makes it possible for humans to walk without thinking about it. But we can’t pull that off right from the start — we have to learn. A writer for Wired UK says — the researchers built learning legs, too.

 

“The CPG in humans isn't just influenced by reflexes ... It also learns over time how better to respond to certain situations -- that's why a baby takes time to learn how to crawl, and then walk. The robotic legs mimic this biological process, with a CPG that is ‘entrained’ the more it walks.”

 

So what’s next for the legs? The researchers say they’re going to work on integrating vision into the system so the robot can avoid obstacles. They also want to teach it to right itself if it stumbles.

 

Scientific American explains where the research could go from there.

 

“Of course one of the primary goals of this research is to create more human-like movement in robots. But the researchers also hope their work helps better explain how humans walk and how spinal-cord-injury patients can recover...”

Researchers Build 'Biologically Correct' Walking Robot Legs

by Steven Sparkman
0
Transcript
Jul 7, 2012

Researchers Build 'Biologically Correct' Walking Robot Legs

(Image source: Institute of Physics)

 

BY STEVEN SPARKMAN

ANCHOR CARISSA LOETHEN

 

Researchers at the University of Arizona have built what they say are the most “biologically correct” pair of robot legs ever made.

 

A short video posted by the Institute of Physics shows the legs in action. The movements are a little stiff, but the articulated hip, knee and ankle joints all flex and move like a human’s.

 

Robots have been able to mimic human steps before, so what makes this one so special? It turns out the researchers didn’t just mimic human muscles and bones to make the legs walk — they also copied our neurons. A writer for TIME explains.

 

“The team gave the robot a computerized version of the neural network that humans use to move and groove, called the central pattern generator, or CPG. The network, which lies in the lower part of the spinal cord, gathers sensory information from other parts of the body … and then responds by producing rhythmic muscle signals.”

 

The CPG makes it possible for humans to walk without thinking about it. But we can’t pull that off right from the start — we have to learn. A writer for Wired UK says — the researchers built learning legs, too.

 

“The CPG in humans isn't just influenced by reflexes ... It also learns over time how better to respond to certain situations -- that's why a baby takes time to learn how to crawl, and then walk. The robotic legs mimic this biological process, with a CPG that is ‘entrained’ the more it walks.”

 

So what’s next for the legs? The researchers say they’re going to work on integrating vision into the system so the robot can avoid obstacles. They also want to teach it to right itself if it stumbles.

 

Scientific American explains where the research could go from there.

 

“Of course one of the primary goals of this research is to create more human-like movement in robots. But the researchers also hope their work helps better explain how humans walk and how spinal-cord-injury patients can recover...”

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