Delft (Netherlands) - A PhD student at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands has constructed what he says is the world’s most advanced walking biped robot. Daan Hobbelen, who will receive his PhD on May 30th, created the "Flame" robot to help study how humans walk. He discovered that robot walking can actually be fairly energy efficient and doesn’t have to be the typical "falling forward" approach that many of the other robots employ.
The 1.3 meter tall, 15 kilogram Flame robot uses cable tension to move limbs, much like how our muscles and tendons push and pull our bones. The robot has seven motors, a balance organ in the stomach and several stability algorithms. Everything is controlled by a computer running a real-time Linux kernel samples data at one kilohertz and can adjust the robots gait or feet position while in motion. For example, Flame’s computers can order the feet to spread in order to prevent a fall.
Hobbelen hopes the enhanced "human-like" walking of the Flame can help researchers figure out new ways of treating bone and joint disorders. The research could also help amputees who have to relearn how to walk with prosthetic limbs.
Interestingly enough, Delft University is adapting some of this technology to help build biped soccer robots that will be used in the upcoming Robocup 2008 soccer tournament.