Unlike animals who, when they lose a limb, adapt and learn how to walk again, a robot that loses a limb is completely helpless. With robots soon to be leaving the factory floors and dealing with far more rugged terrain, how will a robot manage to handle itself if it breaks?
“When the robot is undamaged, our approach yields dynamic gaits that are 30% faster than the classic reference gait,” say Cully and co.
And they get better when the robot becomes damaged. The team say that the new compensatory gaits are up to seven times more efficient than the reference gait for that damaged condition. What’s more, the robot always finds a new gait in less than two minutes and often in just a matter of seconds.
Some of these gaits are entirely unexpected. Many involve dynamic movements in which the robot springs forward. In one case, the robot avoids using any of its feet by rolling onto its back and inching forward on its ‘shoulders’.
That’s impressive work that could have a significant impact on the reliability and robustness of walking robots. “This new technique will enable more robust, effective, autonomous robots,” they say.
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