New Technique Discovered to Drive Six-legged Robots

Researchers uncover a new technique of driving a multi-legged robot, according to a new study published on March 9, 2018.

A team of researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have discovered a new method of driving multi-legged robots using a two-level controller.

The controller employs a network of non-linear oscillators that allows the robot the access to diverse gaits and postures. Several species can walk over slopes and irregular surfaces, however it has been a mystery how complex movements are carried out by even the tiniest of creatures.

Brains contain pattern-generator circuits, which specifically regulate the generation of walking patterns. Researchers in Japan and Italy have proposed a new approach to the walking pattern generation, based on a hierarchical network of electronic oscillators arranged over two levels.

This controller comprises two levels. The one on the top contains a CPG[1], which is responsible for controlling the overall sequence of leg movements or gait. The bottom one contains six local pattern generators (LPGs)[2], which are responsible for controlling the trajectories of the individual legs.

The lead author of the study, Ludovico Minati, explain that difficulties in gait are encountered when trying to condense complexity into artificial pattern generators. The developed controller is highly versatile, as its implementation is based on field-programmable analog arrays (FPAAs)[3]. These enable on-the-fly reconfiguration and tuning of all circuit parameters.

“Perhaps the most exciting moment in the research was when we observed the robot exhibit phenomena and gaits, which we neither designed nor expected, and later found out also exist in biological insects,” says Minati.

This study shows how multi-legged robots can be controlled, and has the potential to show how brain-computer interfaces can be integrated with these robots.

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