April 10, 2008

Robot Breaks Record for Distance Walking

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With four thin metal legs, the Cornell Ranger gradually hobbles forward by swinging its outer legs forward, followed by its inside ones. At first glance, one might not think that this pioneering Cornellian is a robot, but the creature went down in robot history last Thursday when it walked a record five hours and 45 laps around Barton Hall.
The Biorobotics Lab works to try to understand the motion of human beings and how they walk so effortlessly. The information from the research could result in advanced prosthetic body parts or rehabilitation. [img_assist|nid=29711|title=Mr. Roboto|desc=The Cornell Ranger walks around Duffield Hall at Bits of our Minds Expo in February.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“The goal is to basically recreate a robot that could walk using its own momentum and be as energy efficient as possible. The long-term goal is to study human motion using this technique,” Andrey Turovsky grad said.
Turovsky worked closely on creating the Cornell Ranger, monitoring the control system of the robot, which determines which parts are needed for walking.
The robot’s four legs, which Turovsky explained are tied together so that two legs walk as one, with inner and outer legs. One pair of legs swing forward while the other pair holds the robot down on using an imitation foot, which is rounded to then help the robot push off the ground.
“We have been working on this robot for almost two years, and worked on a similar one before that. We’ve been saying the whole time that it was capable of walking five or 10 kilometers; it’s a great feeling now to be able to say that it really did,” said Jason Cortell, the Biorobotics Lab Manager who has been supervising the robot’s design and construction as a research support specialist.
During another trial in Dec. 2006, the robot reached its goal of walking just over one kilometer. After walking for 40 minutes the robot stopped after it tripped over a sand-pit cover.
The robot walked without stopping for five and a half miles around Barton Hall. It stopped walking when it fell back on the track.
Because the robot uses the rounded foot to push off the ground, it uses less energy to move.
The Ranger currently uses less than 15 watts of energy, but, according to Prof. Andy Ruina, theoretical and applied mechanics who was in charge of research for the project, he aims to use less energy in the future.
“The basic inspiration was to try to make robots that use much less energy than conventional robots,” Ruina said.
Ruina spends much of his time developing robots. Other robots he has worked on include a powered biped with knees, a passive biped with knees and tinker toy walkers.
“The overall goal of the research is to better understand the motion of animals and machines, and more specifically, legged locomotion. We have learned a lot and we have a lot more yet to learn. We will learn more by building more robots, doing more theory and doing more experiments on humans,” Ruina said.