New robot can flexibly and autonomously switch between different gaits

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Berlin, January 18 (ANI): German scientists have developed a walking robot, which can flexibly and autonomously switch between different gaits, depending on the situation.

The robot was created by a team of scientists at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Gottingen, the Physics Department of the Georg-August-University of Gottingen and the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization.

Following the principle of chaos control, the robot produces regular leg movements when walking normally.

In addition, it can use the uncontrolled chaotic movement pattern to free itself when its leg is trapped in a hole.

In humans and animals, periodically recurring movements like walking or breathing are controlled by small neural circuits called "central pattern generators" (CPG).

Scientists have been using this principle in the development of walking machines.

To date, typically one separate CPG was needed for every gait.

The robot receives information about its environment via several sensors - about whether there is an obstacle in front of it or whether it climbs a slope.

Based on this information, it selects the CPG controlling the gait that is appropriate for the respective situation.

The robot developed by the Gottingen scientists now manages the same task with only one CPG that generates entirely different gaits and which can switch between these gaits in a flexible manner.

The connection between sensory properties and CPG can either be preprogrammed or learned by the robot from experience.

The scientists use a key example to show how this works: the robot can autonomously learn to walk up a slope with as little energy input as possible.

As soon as the robot reaches a slope, a sensor shows that the energy consumption is too high.

Thereupon, the connection between the sensor and the control input of the CPG is varied until a gait is found that allows the robot to consume less energy.

Once the right connections have been established, the robot has learned the relation between slope and gait.

When it tries to climb the hill a second time, it will immediately adopt the appropriate gait.

In the future, the robot will also be equipped with a memory device that will enable it to complete movements even after the sensory input ceases to exist.

According to Marc Timme, scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, "Once the robot is equipped with a motor memory, it will be capable to use foresight and plan its movements." (ANI)

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