Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Robotic legs mimic human gait

WASHINGTON: Scientists claim to have invented the world's most advanced pair of robotic legs that accurately mimic human walking , a feat they say has brought the goal of developing human friendly household robots a step closer. Created by a team from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Arizona, the legs are the first to mimic walking in a biologically accurate and energy efficient manner.
The biological accuracy of this robot, which has been detailed in the Journal of Neural Engineering, has allowed the researchers to investigate the processes underlying walking in humans and may bolster theories of how babies learn to walk. It could also help understand how patients with spinal cord injury can recover the ability to walk. According to the researchers, a key component of human walking is the central pattern generator (CPG), which is a neural network in the lumbar region of the spinal cord that generates rhythmic muscle signals. The CPG produces, and then controls, these signals by gathering information from different parts of the body that are responding to the environment. This is what allows people to walk without needing to think about it. The robot contains an artificial half-centre as well as sensors that deliver information back to the half-centre . "Interestingly, we were able to produce a walking gait, without balance, which mimicked human walking with only a simple half centre controlling the hips and a set of reflex responses controlling the lower limb." Theresa Klein, who worked on the legs with Anthony Lewis, said.

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