Tuesday, 29 July 2014
masthead+quote+image
Advanced search

'World's fastest' bipedal robot maintains human-like gait

Engineers have unveiled what they claim is the world’s fastest bipedal robot with knees.

The prototype can reach a peak speed of 6.8mph (10.9km/h) and negotiate rough terrain at lower speeds — all while maintaining a human-like gait.

The research group at Michigan University said it envisages a range of potential applications for the robot, which is called MABEL.

‘The robotics community has been trying to come up with machines that can go places where humans can go, so a human morphology is important,’ said Prof Jessy Grizzle of Michigan. ‘If you would like to send in robots to search for people when a house is on fire, it probably needs to be able to go up and down stairs, step over the baby’s toys on the floor and manoeuvre in an environment where wheels and tracks may not be appropriate.’

MABEL was built in 2008 in collaboration with the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and the team has spent the years since improving the feedback algorithms that enable the robot to keep its balance while reacting to its environment in real time.

MABEL bipedal Robot

MABEL started off walking smoothly and quickly over flat surfaces. Then it moved on to uneven ground at slower speeds. It took its first real jog in late July, according to the team.

To achieve a human-like gait, the engineers distributed MABEL’s weight like a person’s — it has a heavier torso and light, flexible legs with springs that act like tendons. While running, MABEL is in the air for 40 per cent of each stride for the so-called flight phase; this compares with less than 10 per cent of each step for previous bipedal robots, according to the team.

Grizzle said that the technology used to build MABEL could also be used for exoskeletons that enable wheelchair-bound people to walk again or for powered prosthetic limbs that behave like their biological counterparts.

MABEL is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

US robotics experts are developing an intriguing and somewhat sinister solution for pack-sore soldiers. Click here to read more.

Related videos


Readers' comments (2)

  • Why do we need to be told that the peak speed is 6.8mph and 10.9km/h and 3.06 m/s?
    The mixing of units just clutters the report and dooms the project to failure.
    An Olympic sprinter does about 10 m/s, so 3 m/s gives a reasonable feel for the performance of the robot.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This is great! Now, if they quickly transform this to help paraplegics walk and run, that would be fantastic.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

Mandatory
Mandatory
Mandatory
Mandatory

My saved stories (Empty)

You have no saved stories

Save this article

Digital Edition

The Engineer July Digi Issue

Poll

London Mayor Boris Johnson is lobbying for a £10 additional charge for diesel cars to drive into Central London by 2020, and for road tax on diesel cars and all pre-2006 cars to be increased, to counter air pollution. What option most closely matches your opinion on this?

Previous Poll

Europe's largest tidal array in the Pentand Firth off Orkney will eventually generate up to 86MW of power. What will it take for tidal energy to make an appreciable contribution to the UK's energy needs?

Read and comment on the results here