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Robotic Legs Developed with Human Walking Motion

Theresa Klein (LinkedIn.com)

Theresa Klein (LinkedIn.com)

Engineers at University of Arizona in Tucson have developed a robotic pair of legs with a biologically accurate walking motion. Theresa Klein (pictured right) and Anthony Lewis at Arizona’s Robotics and Neural Systems Laboratory published the results of their work this week in the Journal of Neural Engineering.

The researchers say the robotic legs have a simplified form of the neural and musculoskeletal architecture, and sensory feedback pathways found in human legs. The device can serve as a model to help spinal cord injury victims recover the ability to walk, as well as help researchers better understand how babies learn to walk.

The neural architecture of the the human walking system is called the central pattern generator, a neural network in the lumbar region of the spinal cord that generates rhythmic muscle signals. The human central pattern generator produces, and then controls, these signals by gathering information from different body parts in response to the environment. This neural network allows people to walk without thinking about it.

A simple form of a central pattern generator is called a half-center, which consists of two neurons that fire signals alternatively, producing a rhythm. The robotic leg system contains an artificial half-center, as well as sensors that deliver information back to the device’s half-center, including load sensors that sense force in the limb when the leg is pressed against a stepping surface. A Linux-based computer simulates the spinal neurons, receives sensory data through one line for sensory data, and commands the motors via a separate line.

Klein and Lewis demonstrated how the artificial central pattern generator helps stabilize the walking motion of the device against disruptions — such as disabling or adding extra weight to one leg — compared to a purely reflexive system, and found the Arizona device is better able to compensate for the disruptions.

The researchers also compared the trajectories of the joints in the device to human walking data, and found the robotic hips and knees resembled human walking, while the ankles were somewhat different. They attribute the difference in ankle trajectories to activation of the ankle extensors earlier in the step cycle to ensure the foot is able to clear the ground.

The following brief video demonstrates the walking motion of the robotic legs.

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6 comments to Robotic Legs Developed with Human Walking Motion

  • Robots are only really uufesl in countries with strong economies and a lack of human workers. Japan has had chronic labor shortages over the last few decades, so they’ve pioneered robots that do human jobs. Robots cost more than low-wage workers, so they aren’t used much in China or India or places like that.And the software that’s used in robots isn’t PC software at all. It’s not related to desktop or laptop computing, or office work or education, the stuff Microsoft does. Robots are stand-alone. There’s a control panel that you hold like a remote control, and you guide the robot through its task once or twice, and record the motions. Then you just play it back and the robot does exactly the same thing over and over. Nothing there that Microsoft could sink their teeth into (thank God!)

  • Pratik

    we required the robotics leg details. if you can provide us then please send the details that you can.

    Thank you,
    Pratik

  • Thank you Pratik for your question and for visiting Science Business. I recommend contacting Anthony Lewis, director of the Robotics and Neural Systems Laboratory at University of Arizona, where the research in the article was conducted. You can reach Dr. Lewis by e-mail at m.anthony.lewis [AT] gmail.com – AK

  • What a great concept as a teiahcng toy for kids 5 and up to learn about robotics the concept of breaking as destruction and application of technollgy to repair and build -WOW.This definitely an important part of a media diet!

  • GIRISH

    Six year old son suffering from Spinal Muscular Atophy and is not able to bear weight on his legs.Can he walk with these robotic legs and is it available in India

  • Thank you Girish for your question and visiting Science Business. I recommend contacting Anthony Lewis, director of the Robotics and Neural Systems Laboratory at University of Arizona, where the research in the article was conducted. You can reach Dr. Lewis by e-mail at m.anthony.lewis [AT] gmail [DOT] com – AK