PedestriANS Robot Can Adapt Its Walking Style Based on the Environment

To adapt to different environments, the bipedal robot can change the characteristics and movements of its legs.

The bipedal robot crossing the street next to a human user. (📷: Ahmad et al.)

Robots are generally designed to move or walk on one or two different terrain types, whereas we humans can adapt our walking style no matter the surface. Without even a thought, we can handle walking on grass, rocks, rugged hills, just about anything by adjusting our gait, stance, and legs. Now, researchers from Osaka University have developed a bipedal robot that can do the same (to some extent) but modifying its walking behavior based on changing environments.

Known as PedestriANS, the robot is capable of altering its movements to adjust for environmental changes, such as slowing its speed while walking on slippery surfaces, or altering its direction when encountering an obstacle. The robot was designed using an actuator network system (ANS), which links both legs together and are driven by a single motor. The robot’s walking behaviors change by changing its interaction with the actuators of the ANS system, meaning its actuator patterns adapt handle better the surface it’s walking on.

The researchers tested the PedestriANS robot on a variety of material surfaces to see how the robot would adjust its ANS morphology when transitioning to different terrain. The data gathered was then used to alter the robot’s design so that it could better change its movement with different actuator patterns.

Although the team has made significant progress in the way PedestriANS can morph its walking style, it still can’t autonomously identify the best walking style best suited for a particular environment. To counter that issue, the scientists plan on developing a control system that will provide the robot with an AI intelligence to identify an environment, and adjust its walking behavior accordingly.

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