Next Generation of Robotic Legs


The Biomorphic Robotics Lab at the University of South Florida seeks to emulate the mechanics, sensor systems, computing structures and methodologies used by biological systems to traverse challenging terrain. Simply, they are trying to engineer good legs.  Headed by Dr. Luther Palmer, a computer engineer, the group is specifically pursuing algorithms that increase the responsiveness of legged systems on uncertain terrain.  This is the speed in which the system can sense and provide an appropriate response to foot slippage or any other unexpected interaction between the foot and ground.  The team has been studying the biomechanics of animals, such as horses, who are adept at running on rough ground. Funding from the National Science Foundation has enabled Dr. Palmer to build a 6-legged walker and also to pursue higher-speed biped locomotion in a high-fidelity simulation environment. 

"The algorithms are designed to reduce inter-leg coordination since reliable information can be difficult to acquire, transmit, receive and then put to use in the short control intervals that exist during high-speed running.  This limitation on sensing and data flow is imposed on the walking hexapod as it negotiates over curbs and up stairs," said Dr. Palmer.

Palmer sees broad applications for smarter, more agile robotic legs.

"Biomorphism in robotics will benefit prosthetic technology, and will drastically improve the effectiveness of mobile robots deployed for planetary exploration, military reconnaissance and time-critical search and rescue in collapsed buildings and other unstructured environments." 

 The research was supported by NSF award #1125667, Broadening Participation Research Initiation Grant in Engineering (BRIGE): Running Over Rough Terrain—Enhancing Biological Hypotheses.