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Title: Fast biped walking with a neuronal controller and physical computation
Author(s): Geng, Tao
Supervisor(s): Hancock, Peter J. B.
Keywords: biped
walking robot
Issue Date: Apr-2007
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: Biped walking remains a difficult problem and robot models can greatly {facilitate} our understanding of the underlying biomechanical principles as well as their neuronal control. The goal of this study is to specifically demonstrate that stable biped walking can be achieved by combining the physical properties of the walking robot with a small, reflex-based neuronal network, which is governed mainly by local sensor signals. This study shows that human-like gaits emerge without {specific} position or trajectory control and that the walker is able to compensate small disturbances through its own dynamical properties. The reflexive controller used here has the following characteristics, which are different from earlier approaches: (1) Control is mainly local. Hence, it uses only two signals (AEA=Anterior Extreme Angle and GC=Ground Contact) which operate at the inter-joint level. All other signals operate only at single joints. (2) Neither position control nor trajectory tracking control is used. Instead, the approximate nature of the local reflexes on each joint allows the robot mechanics itself (e.g., its passive dynamics) to contribute substantially to the overall gait trajectory computation. (3) The motor control scheme used in the local reflexes of our robot is more straightforward and has more biological plausibility than that of other robots, because the outputs of the motorneurons in our reflexive controller are directly driving the motors of the joints, rather than working as references for position or velocity control. As a consequence, the neural controller and the robot mechanics are closely coupled as a neuro-mechanical system and this study emphasises that dynamically stable biped walking gaits emerge from the coupling between neural computation and physical computation. This is demonstrated by different walking experiments using two real robot as well as by a Poincar\'{e} map analysis applied on a model of the robot in order to assess its stability. In addition, this neuronal control structure allows the use of a policy gradient reinforcement learning algorithm to tune the parameters of the neurons in real-time, during walking. This way the robot can reach a record-breaking walking speed of 3.5 leg-lengths per second after only a few minutes of online learning, which is even comparable to the fastest relative speed of human walking.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Natural Sciences

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