Working with Humanoid Robots to Walk More Naturally, to Help Humans

For robots, walking with a natural stride is a major challenge. Researchers at EPFL's Biorobotics Laboratory  are testing novel systems to improve humanoids' ability to walk and interact with humans. Specifically, they are testing new walking algorithms on a 95-cm-tall, headless platform called COMAN - short for COmpliant HuMANoid. "Whether for manufacturing or natural disasters, we need robots that can interact with humans and help us carry heavy objects," says Jessica Lanini, an engineer in the lab. "But such robots don't exist. That's because, in order to operate safely and effectively, the robots would need to be able to make decisions and respond to unexpected circumstances." COMAN's joints are integrated with elastic elements that give it greater flexibility when performing different tasks. The EPFL team came up with a novel control algorithm for the robot, based on the existing symmetries in the structure and dynamics of the robot, as well as the mathematical equations representing the robot dynamics.