Amber 2 robot walks with a human gait (w/ Video)

Oct 25, 2013 by Bob Yirka report

(Phys.org) —The engineering team at Texas A&M's Amber robotics labs has been hard at work trying to improve one area of robotics that others seem to be ignoring—getting a robot to mimic the natural gait of a human being. Their latest effort is a robot they've named Amber 2—it's basically a pair of legs and feet attached to an overhead boom, but it appears to come closer to walking like a person than any other robot out there.

People are able to walk so smoothly because of the seamless interaction between the muscles, bone, ligaments, etc. in the legs, ankles and feet. More specifically there is a rolling motion that goes on when people walk—we push off with our toes and land with our heels. But there is more to it than that, our heel and toes must work independently of each other, allowing for pivoting, bending, twisting and stretching. It's a smooth dance between our bodies and the external world beneath us. Getting a to walk like us means not just building legs, ankles or feet like ours, it means programming them all to work together in way that is graceful when the robot walks, and that appears to be where the Amber 2 team is headed.

Amber 2 walks like a person—there's little doubt about that. But, it's also still attached to a boom—unleashed it would fall. The engineers on the project realize this of course and that's why they are undoubtedly working on an Amber 3 or 4—there is still the problem of maintaining balance while walking like we do, something that for us at least, has as much to do with our brains, fluid in our ears, and even our arms, as it does with our legs, ankles and feet.

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Demonstration of human-like mulit-contact locomotion on the bipedal robot AMBER. In particular, as inspired by human-locomotion, the robot demonstrates three phases of walking throughout the walking gait characterized by changing contact points at the heel and toe. Furthermore, these changing contact points result in different three different types of actuation throughout the walking gait: full actuation, underactuation and over actuation. The end result is human-like locomotion on the robot.

Watching the Amber 2 in action stirs the imagination—it's not difficult to envision such a robot with legs covered to resemble ours, with shoes on, walking around like we do, blending in. It's all part of the ultimate goal—to build a robot indistinguishable from a human being—though what we'll want from such a machine is still very much up for debate.

Explore further: Walking robots: it's all in the hips, say Japan researchers

More information: www.bipedalrobotics.com/

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Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Oct 25, 2013
It walks like someone who's acting or marching. It's unnatural.

I think the problem is still that they're not doing fully dynamic passive walking, but try to keep the center of the balance under the torso at all times, so it walks like a person who's very carefully trying to walk bolt upright without leaning in any direction.

Try it yourself, and you'll notice how you're forced to lift your knees to walk instead of simply swinging your lower legs naturally. Then try to walk normally but delay your step- notice how you start to fall over forwards until you catch it with your foot.

One of the problems is that if you try to compare human gait as done on a treadmill, you get wrong results because it doesn't allow the sort of normal lean forward because you're actually standing still. In reality, the walk is a constant swinging motion where you lean forward and swing back up by accelerating with your feet.
NeutronicallyRepulsive
1 / 5 (1) Oct 25, 2013
I agree. It looks more like a man trying to copy a walk of that robot. But other than that quite impressive nevertheless.
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Oct 25, 2013
This is what dynamic passive walking looks like:
http://www.youtub...IFEGmiKY
http://www.youtub...7opXqoro

Notice, no motors. The action is completely unpowered, which is the point of normal human gait - minimum effort, minimun energy consumption. It does look natural.
loneislander
1 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2013
All that's needed to fix the gait is to not lift the knee so darn high (no one does that unless they're walking in molasses) and they need to spend some time thinking about what the toes do when a person walks (there's where the top 20% of efficiency is going to come from) -- particularly the big toe. This animal is not relying on sufficiently subtle movements for balance to be confused for carbon-based.

Great progress though.