London: German researchers have succeeded in teaching a uniquely-built robot how to walk like a human.
Inspired by a stick insect, this one-of-its-kind robot named Hector possesses elastic joints and an ultra-light exoskeleton.
What makes it unique is that it is also equipped with a great number of sensors.
"The way the elasticity in Hector's drives acts is comparable to the way that muscles act in biological systems," said professor Axel Schneider, head of the biomechatronics research group that built the robot along with a team from Bielefeld University.
Hector has 18 elastic joints. Through the biologically-inspired elasticity of the drives, Hector can adapt flexibly to the properties of the surfaces over which it is walking.
In the future, Hector should serve as a platform for biologists and roboticists to test hypotheses about animal locomotion.
One major aspect will be the fusion of large amounts of data from sensors so that the robot can walk more autonomously than before.
A further key issue will be the optimal coordination of movements by a robot with elastic drives.
However, elasticity alone is not enough for Hector to be able to walk through a natural environment containing obstacles.
"The challenge was to develop a control system that would coordinate the movements of its legs in difficult surroundings as well," Schneider added.
"We have dealt with this by implementing a reflex behaviour for climbing over objects," said Schneider's colleague Jan Paskarbeit.
By 2017, the robot will be equipped with additional abilities as part of a major project of the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC), the authors said.