n yet another feat that sounds like it came straight from a science-fiction thriller, engineers are creating robots that are able to walk like humans.
While creating a bipedal robot is nothing new, the problem lies with making it walk naturally like a human. Current bipedal robots tend to take large stomping steps, which can usually interfere with their ability to perform certain job duties. So, Swiss engineers have decided to take matters into their own hands and develop a walking robot that focuses only on walking like a human.
Engineers from the L’ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne have developed a headless robot, called COMAN, that walks a bit more gracefully than its predecessors. COMAN stands for Compliant Humanoid, and it doesn’t have a head so it can concentrate only on walking and not other functions.
COMAN is able to walk more gracefully with help from more flexible, elastic joints. The engineers have also programmed a control algorithm into it so the robot can understand its own body better. But while the average human walks about 10,000 steps a day, the robot is meant to spend more time thinking about where it is walking rather than how much it walks.
With help of the control algorithm, COMAN knows its own structure and dynamics, meaning it is able to react and steady its gait depending on what it encounters. For example, it can adjust its weight to carry objects, navigate uneven surfaces like stairs, and react to surprises all while walking with a natural gait. So, if someone startles the robot, it knows how to steady itself and where to place its foot so it doesn’t fall over.
The engineers have created these skills as a way to make it easier for robots to work alongside humans and complete tasks that require two people, such as carrying a table.
Jessica Lanini, a researcher on the COMAN project, explains to Digital Trends why the research team decided to take on this project. She says:
“Our interest in evaluating the implication of the coupling on the walking gaits can be associated to two main reasons. On one hand, we would like to better understand human motor control — trying to find out how and why the haptic feedback through an object determines walking gait adaptation and even gait synchronization phenomena… We believe that such a study can be useful in the field of physical human-robot interaction.”
But this development is only the beginning when it comes to making robots walk like humans. The next step for the researchers is to find out more about human’s natural ability to both adapt and synchronize to their partner when working together. They would like to create an overall smarter robot so it can think for itself seamlessly when collaborating with a human.
So while a typical engineer’s salary can vary from $50,000 to $150,000 annually, if engineers continue to create successful robots, these mechanical friends may soon be taking over jobs before we know it. And that is something right out of a science-fiction novel.