Several university laboratories introduced three new bipedal robots at this week's American Association for the Advancement of Science conference. While other mechanical bipeds like Honda's Asimo depend on a complicated system of motors and sensors in every joint under intense software control, these new robots employ much simpler techniques. (Unlike Asimo though, these bots can't yet climb stairs.)
"The walking looks more natural, because it is," says Richard Walker, who works at the Shadow Robot Company in the UK. "To get human-like walking, and then to go from there to more complex bipedal movements, this is the right approach."Link
The researchers took their inspiration from mechanical walking toys that automatically stroll down a slope in response to gravity. By attaching a few motors to such mechanisms they were able to make robots that will happily amble along a flat surface.
Two of the three robots, those developed at Cornell and Delft, are relatively simple, yet exhibit remarkable power efficiency. Whereas Asimo consumes about 10 times as much power as a walking human, these robots use about the same amount of energy as the average person.