Background: Animals and humans have incredible motion capabilities in terms of speed, energy efficiency, and traversal of rough environments, mainly because of their legged locomotion system. The scientific study of legged locomotion began over a century ago and at about the same period, the first designs of walking machines appeared. A number of robots with one, two, three, four, six, or even more legs have been developed up to date. The attention of the research community is now turned towards closing the performance gap that still separates robotic devices from their counterparts in nature.
Aim: Although legged robots have the potential to outperform other mobile machines in rough environments, they are subject to complex motion planning and control challenges and to balance-in-motion constraints. The aim of this research program is the integration of such capabilities into autonomous and dependable legged robotic systems through the development of novel designs and control methods, with emphasis on efficient locomotion.
Work Plan: To reach our goals, three teams working with humans, animals, legged robots, crawlers and humanoids will cooperate employing an interdisciplinary approach. The work includes both analytical and experimental thrusts and is organized in six workpackages: WP1 Analysis and Modelling of Legged Locomotion, WP2 Control Systems Design, WP3 Design and Implementation of Experimental Robots, WP4 Experimental Study of Motion, WP5 Dissemination of Results, and WP6 Project Management.
Expected results: In a nutshell, these include: (a) an autonomous quadruped robot prototype with multi- jointed legs and articulated body that can achieve fast and stable gaits through uneven terrains, (b) a multi- legged robot prototype with flexible elements capable of robust locomotion through uneven terrains with its body in full ground contact, (c) the development of control algorithms for humanoids employing upper and lower limb coordination for maintaining stable gaits through uneven terrains, (d) a comprehensive study of the control and stability methods of humans and animals during locomotion through uneven terrains.