MABEL Robot Biped Now Runs Faster Than You

MABEL is a fast bipedal robot; take a look at the following video.

(MABEL robot video)

MABEL was designed to be both a robust walker and a fast runner. It pushes the state of the art in bipedal mechanism design and provides an opportunity for effective control design methodology to maximize the robot's energy efficiency, speed, and stability. Our specific objectives are to demonstrate: energy efficient walking on flat ground; the ability to walk over uneven terrain; and running. All of this should be accomplished with provably correct feedback laws. The emphasis on energy efficiency is because, for a biped to be able to operate in the real world for an extended period of time, it must carry its own power and use that power as economically as possible. The ability to walk on uneven ground will allow bipeds to function out of the laboratory. The ability to run is in part for fun and in part to demonstrate dynamic balance in an extremely challenging situation. The running achieved with current bipeds is very unsatisfactory. Just take a look at their gaits and you'll see what we mean. Finally, the emphasis on provably correct feedback laws is because we are attempting to remove a lot of the trial and error from the process of designing control algorithms for bipedal robots. Our objective is to design controllers on the basis of models and have the controllers work on the associated hardware.

In sf, fast robots are seldom a welcome sight. Consider the slamhound from William Gibson's 1986 novel Count Zero:

THEY sent A SLAMHOUND on Turner's trail in New Delhi, slotted it to his pheromones and the color of his hair. It caught up with him on a street called Chandni Chauk and came scrambling for his rented BMW through a forest of bare brown legs and pedicab tires. Its core was a kilogram of recrystallized hexogene and flaked TNT.

The bipedal T-1000 from Terminator 2 was another fast running robot from science fiction. Can you think of any others?

Via UM's Control Systems Lab.

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