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Robotics Hardware

First Dynamically Balancing Biped Robot 155

damg writes "Anybots, which is three guys led by Trevor Blackwell, has developed the first robot that walks like we do, by dynamically balancing itself rather than being pre-programmed for walking like Asimo. The video shows the robot walking and being pushed by another 'bully' robot to demonstrate that it can't easily be pushed over."
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First Dynamically Balancing Biped Robot

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  • Oblig (Score:5, Funny)

    by GeePrime ( 831254 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @10:51PM (#18176650)
    I, for one, welcome our new dynamically balancing robot overlords
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I, robot, for one, welcome our new bully robot overlords.
    • But... (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Can it find Sarah Connor?


  • by Null Perception ( 914562 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @10:51PM (#18176654)
    But can he talk the talk? I didn't think so. Move along, nothing to see here.
    • by Walt Dismal ( 534799 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @11:06PM (#18176806)
      C3PO: "Oh, R2D2, don't be jealous because *I* can walk. (robosnicker)"

      ...R2D2 pisses oil all over the floor, watches as C3PO slips and falls on his shiny metal ass; R2D2 emits a sound suspiciously like Nelson from Simpsons "ha ha".

    • First to "dynamically balancing itself"?

      I thought Segway [] was the first.

      • Segways don't exactly walk - they roll. Though I guess there is a similar principle, this is a two-legged robot, not a motorized machine.
        • You are correct from a technical standpoint, but the notion that a robot (which I believe Segway is) autonomously balancing itself is a breakthrough of some sort pales because Segway did it first, albeit in one dimension.

          • Even the title specifically mentions bipeds. And the Segway was certainly not the first inverted pendulum to be controlled. It was just the first to make it into a stupid roll along machine to ride on.
      • Keep in mind that in order for something to balance itself, it has to shift it's weight, and stay upright, including against opposing forces.
      • I thought I saw some movies a few years ago from a Dutch university showing off their dynamically balancing robot? It was pneumatic IIRC. Someone else remembers this?
      • First to "dynamically balancing itself"? I thought Segway [] [] was the first.

        The Segway, having wheels, is not generally considered to be "bipedal". Though in the video the "bully bot" looks to be a Segway with arms and a camera head.

        The bipedal bot really needs to have arms to flail about for balance. Now that would be funny. It can bring you a beer, but don't open it right away...

    • But can he talk the talk? I didn't think so. Move along, nothing to see here.
      Didn't you mean 'Move along, nothing to *hear* here'?
    • The robot can chew gum, but not at the same time.
  • by TinBromide ( 921574 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @10:53PM (#18176662)
    Hmm, so, it walks like we do?

    Gets out of bed, goes to the fridge, pulls out a soda and pours a coffee, then sits at the computer for 12-20 hours stopping only to walk to the door to receive food deliveries, go to the fridge to get another soda, and to the bathroom to remedy the situation that the previous two types of activities has caused?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Hmm, so, it walks like we do?

      Well, it doesn't walk like I do, but it walks a hell of a lot like my dad does!
  • by chriss ( 26574 ) * <> on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @10:53PM (#18176670) Homepage

    This is ways more impressive than you'd guess from the video, which doesn't look much different from all the other walking biped robot video (it's less shiny than most). Since this always pops up [] and always has to be explained []:

    not dynamically balanced:
    When the robot (e.g Asimo) moves, it's center of gravity is ALWAYS above the foot it is standing on. As a consequence, the robot could freeze at any moment without falling. Humans can walk that way, but it's slow.
    dynamically balanced:
    The center of gravity is not above the foot, basically it's falling forward, the motion cannot be stopped without falling. Much faster to move, much harder to calculate. Anybots managed this, which makes their bots a great achievement. We move this way.
    • by jkuff ( 170923 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @11:36PM (#18177012) Homepage
      This comment is spreading misinformation.

      ASIMO _absolutely_ dynamically balances. I have one in my lab at CMU and have worked with walking humanoids [] for years.

      First of all, static stability means the center of gravity (CoG) is inside the base of support (the convex hull of the ground contact points).

      Dynamic stability is much more difficult to analyze because it involves stability over time. The velocities of any moving parts of an articulated body induce linear and angular momentum that can result in a dynamic stability over time _without_ having any of the intermediate poses being statically stable.

      The center of gravity absolutely _does not_ always stay above the support leg for ASIMO. If you try to freeze his pose during the middle of a step it will fall over.

      Instead, ASIMO is controlled to keep the Zero Moment Point (ZMP) always inside the convex hull of the contact points. The ZMP (related to the Center of Pressure) is the point on the contact surface where the sum of all torques (moments) is zero. For a given walking trajectory, if the ZMP always stays inside the base if support, then the walk is dynamically stable.

      There have been numerous humanoids that use the ZMP formulation to control and maintain dynamic balance while walking (e.g. Honda P2, P3, ASIMO, U. Tokyo H6, H7, AIST HRP2, Waseda Wabian 1, 2, KAIST Hubo, Toyota Partner Robots, Sony QRIO and many more). ALL of these robots are dynamically balancing and are definitely NOT statically stable.

      • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @12:20AM (#18177284) Homepage

        Kuffner (above) is right, of course. Dynamically stabilized walking has been around for years. It's not easy to do, but it's been done. Raibert first did it in the 1980s. See his book, "Legged Robots that Balance".

        Most of the self-balancing walkers, as Kuffner points out, use a ZMP-based approach. This works for walking, although it's not quite enough for effective running.

        Many of the dynamically balanced robots can rebalance after a shove. BDI's Big Dog can. [] So can some Japanese hobbyist robots.

        If you're not up to date on how far along Japanese hobbyist robotics has progressed, see these videos of this month's humanoid robot soccer match []. These robots are mostly manually controlled, but have computers managing some functions. Many have rate gyros to assist with balance. Gradually, the computers and sensors are taking over more of the control. The hobby robotics manufacturers in Japan now have about 70% of the functionality of Asimo at 2% of the price. There are hobbyist robots with WiFi links and cameras on board. A few more improvements and you'll be able to do all the Asimo stuff with a $1500 robot. But it will only be about 60cm high.

        • by jcr ( 53032 )
          Was it Raibert that built the pogo-stick robot? I seem to remember seeing that on Nova or some show like that in the early 80's.


          • by SnowZero ( 92219 )
            Yes. He founded the Leg Lab at Carnegie Mellon, and later took it to MIT where it got even more famous. Then he left for Boston Dynamics, which created the "big-dog" robot that has been on slashdot. Gill Pratt continued the MIT Leg Lab work on force-based actuation and dynamic walking for some time after that.
      • I'm glad to hear that someone has said it. Yes, this is by far not the first dynamically balancing robot; and in this case, to be honest, i'd probably wait a bit and improve the bot's look/performance before announcing anything.

        The Sony SDR 4X/QRIO has one of the more impressive ZMP implementations that i've seen in a while. Too bad that the project got killed.
      • I don't know what this project does differently than ASIMO, but it seems to do it a lot more fluidly and quickly than ASIMO does in all the videos I've seen.
      • by ndogg ( 158021 )
        You're right.

        In this video [], it's mentioned that both of ASIMO's feet leave the ground for 0.08 seconds. If that's not dynamic balance, I'm not sure what is.
    • by MBHkewl ( 807459 )
      I don't throw myself forward/backward to walk o_0;
  • Damn it.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by gardyloo ( 512791 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @10:55PM (#18176686)
    Time to get some Old Glory Insurance, my friends.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @11:00PM (#18176744)
    Looks like these robotics enthusiasts had a fair bit of free time on valentines day to put together the video demonstration :)
  • So what? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Garridan ( 597129 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @11:01PM (#18176752)
    I figured that out like, 20 years ago! Kids these days are reaching a new low. They can't even figure out how to walk without some dumb robot to teach them!
  • by Hawthorne01 ( 575586 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @11:05PM (#18176802)
    Let's see a robot deal with handing over his lunch money or threats of a wedgie. Then we'll have something!
  • Cool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <> on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @11:07PM (#18176820) Journal

    I immediately noticed a striking resemblance between how this robot was learning to walk and how my grandson, now 10 months old, makes regular attempts to also solve this problem for himself.

    Way cool.

    • This robot is cheating by starting out at a standing position. Figuring out how to get from crawling or lying down to a standing position is probably the hardest part of walking, as any baby can tell you, Including my 9 month old girl.
      • Your 9 month old girl can speak those words?
        Holy crap they get smarter by the generation!
      • This robot is cheating by starting out at a standing position. Figuring out how to get from crawling or lying down to a standing position is probably the hardest part of walking, as any baby can tell you, Including my 9 month old girl.

        I'm not sure I agree with this. I guess it depends on what you mean by "hard".

        Babies first learn to "stand" with assistance, and they do this for several months. At first the assistance is from an adult who holds them up so that all the baby is really doing is supporting his weight, but not balancing. Then the adult switches to just holding the baby's hands, so that the baby has to do much of the job of balancing, but the adult handles the rest and provides a safety net. Then the baby learns how to

        • Babies first learn to "stand" with assistance, and they do this for several months

          But the damage to the parent's lower back lasts for years.

        • by mark-t ( 151149 )
          What I thought was fascinating is that the strides it took looked so much like an infant that is learning how to walk.... slowly, one foot at a time, adjusting balance with every step using hips almost exactly the way an infant does, in a gradual endeavor to develop a rhythm.
    • by mjh ( 57755 )
      Back in the day, I worked as a sysadmin in a NASA AI/Robotics Lab. Your comment reminds me of what one of the researchers said to one of the other researchers who had a child: How's your natural intelligence project coming?

      Yes, it's geeky. But it was pretty funny for a group of AI researchers.
  • by jkuff ( 170923 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @11:07PM (#18176824) Homepage
    This is a cool robot, but the claim of being the first "dynamically balancing robot" is an overstatement. There have been many dynamically balancing robots before, the most famous being Honda's P2 unveiled in 1997. After that, there have been dozens of walking and dynamically balancing humanoids.

    What I think the story _should_ point out that is very impressive is:

    1) The robot uses pneumatic actuators, which are notoriously difficult to model and control. Almost all of the current dynamically balancing and walking humanoids use electric motors (e.g. ASIMO).

    2) Anybots claims to have some "learning" in their controller. Although they don't have any papers about what they are doing, perhaps they are using some clever statistical modeling and feedback to adaptively control and regulate the robot's stability.

    BTW, I had a chance to meet Trevor Blackwell a few years ago when he visited my lab. He is definitely a talented engineer with a vision for the future. Several years ago he made Slashdot when he announced his homemade Segway: 28/1756241 []

    From my point of view, any interest by hobbyists and industry in humanoid robotics in North America is great for the field of robotics research.

    • The article claims that this is different from ASIMO in that it is unprogrammed. Perhaps this means that the feedback from the gyro is used more directly?

      In any case, this certainly looks like my friend getting over hip replacement surgery. I wonder if one application would be in working out better models of physical therepy. Give the robot the same change in leg length and muscle weakness, see how it compensates, then have the patient imitate. The recovery buddy?

      Walk with Sun Dexter! http://mdsol []
  • Dexter and Big Dog (Score:5, Interesting)

    by troll -1 ( 956834 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @11:11PM (#18176852)
    This is obviously a great advancement with enormous potential. But apart from aesthetics I would have thought four legs more practical than two in many circumstances.

    DARPA (the US military research folks who helped bring us the Internet) is currently funding Big Dog [] which I think is has far more potential, because however you calculate it, a quadruped has to have more stability than a biped. Though, in no way do I wish to detract from the achievements of Dexter.

    See Big Dog in action here [].
    • Folks, if you want to see cool robotics, check out that video. Nearly every robotics achievement always seems to blah when you finally see what these robots can do. Yes, on a technical level, we've made a hell of a lot of progress (I've never managed to make a robot dynamically walk more than 2 or 3 slow steps myself, so I can appreciate just how hard this is), but on an asthetic level, they look so.. robotic. Even Asimo leaves something to be desired.

      Check this BigDog video out, it's quite amazing. It look
      • by drix ( 4602 )
        The two slow-mo clips of the guys kicking the robot remind me strangely of this []. Ahh, nerds.
    • Ah! That robot is scary! Why does it have to look like two skinny guys in skintight pants have their torsos stuck in the chassis? If there are two guys in there, why are they making that awful two-stroke engine sound?
  • Fascinating (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JoshJ ( 1009085 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @11:15PM (#18176888) Journal
    Watching the video, I couldn't help but notice that this lacked arms. It strikes me as rather odd to see this, because arms are one of the key features of human balance, but then again they do make for more variables.

    Regardless, this is excellent to see.
    • Re:Fascinating (Score:4, Informative)

      by mblase ( 200735 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @12:22AM (#18177306)
      arms are one of the key features of human balance, but then again they do make for more variables.

      Yes and no. You could probably walk or run perfectly well around your house if your arms were completely limp at your sides, or tied tight behind your back, or bound to your sides somehow.

      Arms CAN improve balance by shifting your center of gravity quickly, but they're absolutely not involved in locomotion.
      • Well, you're sorta correct about all that. But try running full speed without the use of your arms. It doesn't take much to make you lose balance.

        I just wrote off the missing arms as unnecessary to help balance the baby steps the robot was taking.

      • Perhaps it will run around without arms, singing: "C'mon, c'mon.. dooo the locomotion with me!" :D

        Then we could perhaps run the following scenario:

        1. Create singing, dynamically balanced bot
        2. Name it the "Kylie bot"
        3. ?!?
        4. Profit! :P
    • Watching the video, I couldn't help but notice that this lacked arms.

      I was more freaked out by the lack of hair, but I think that's just my fear of bald men acting up.

      - RG>
  • This self-balancing robot resembles the Terminator in many ways, except or course, that it can't chase me, and it doesn't have any arms. I suppose that swaying arms might actually improve balancing once it can walk faster with longer steps. Interesting work...
  • I want to see that segway-footed bully bot push an asimo around, preferably down some stairs [].
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @11:28PM (#18176968) Journal
    Microsoft is coming out with a robot that throws chairs.
    • by Dunbal ( 464142 )
      Microsoft is coming out with a robot that throws chairs.

            No word from Mr. Ballmer yet if he's going to sue for patent infringement or not...
    • It's even easier than that: 10 PRINT "developers " 20 GOTO 10
    • In Soviet Russia, robot chair throws Steve Ballmer.
    • Oh how i lol'd, and cried.

      What actually happened with that anyway? Was it over that guy moving to Google or something? b
  • by Bo'Bob'O ( 95398 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @11:37PM (#18177026)
    Fortunately Shover Robot is there to save him from the terrible secret of space.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      ... I will push grandma outside into the snow... I will push snow on top of grandma... grandma is protected... grandma has gone down the stairs... I am the pusher robot, our mission is complete
  • Not sure why I thought of this and I have no experience with dynamically balanced robots...but...

    If the gyroscope and such balancing mechanisms are so incredibly sensitive, perhaps it's possible for the sensors to get overloaded from very fast movement and the robot would lose his balance. In essence, he would get dizzy.

    At this stage, I doubt you could call the robot falling in the video getting dizzy...but still, it's food for thought.
  • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @12:00AM (#18177170) Journal
    I like that they seem to have built a whole other robot for the sole purpose of pushing the walker robot.

    Though I suppose it's necessary to protect these new inventions from the terrible secret of space.
  • reminds me of a young forrest gump for some odd reason.
  • Except for all the other first walking robots that came before it. Oops.

    Check out this video: []

    It's an MIT robot doing something more than the white-boy shuffle in a lab. It's running across a grass lawn at a pretty good speed.

    This shuffle-bot looks like it'd make me a nice cup holder, and that's about it.
  • What, no arms? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jhfry ( 829244 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @12:41AM (#18177422)
    Isn't dynamically balancing easier to do with arms? Not to mention, they allow you to move faster and they can catch you if you fall.

    I'd bet it would not be too difficult, certainly not easy but compared to their work to this point it'd be trivial, to add some arms and significantly improve the robot's ability to walk... perhaps even jump and/or run... they could even have it catch itself if it falls.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Falladir ( 1026636 )
      I think running and jumping robots are quite far away. The problem is that modern mechanical actuators can't efficiently generate the kind of power (force times speed, equivalent to energy per unit time) needed for a jump or a sprint. You could get a jump with springs coiled by a slower drive-train, but that kind of explosive, uncontrolled release would not be coordinated.

      At this point a shuffling jog is a (serious) programming challenge, but for a running or jumping robot you would need physical techn
      • by jhfry ( 829244 )
        From all appearances, the actuators used on the robot on the are plenty powerful and fast to make a small jump... I'm not thinking of replacing Michael Jordan with a bot or anything.

        Jumping takes great strength in the legs, but equally important is a good arm swing action... the arms play a tremendous roll in making a jump, as they direct a large portion of your weight in the vertical direction and they act as stabilizers in flight.

        I honestly belive that a jumping robot will come well before a jogging or ru
      • I don't see running as a problem. It's not a power problem, it's a reflex problem and this can be solved by using a spring system (two semi-curves held in opposition to each other) in addition to the servos to get them started/stopped. Basically the robot just needs to start slow and build up potential energy in the springs each time it performs a longer controlled fall, that flexes the springs and is redirected forward by the foot/ankle. At least that's how a good long distance runner does it... as little
  • Bread? (Score:1, Redundant)

    Where's the bread?? What will it push down throats if not bread?

    Ok, I'm sure there's someone out there who hasn't seen it yet... nscript-space.php []

    pak chooie unf
  • by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @12:58AM (#18177556)
    ...with those *shoes* the robot's wearing? Can't he at least lace them up?
  • It looks more like a Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth style shuffle than a true walk. It would probably be much cooler if it had on a pair of slippers, though.
  • Urgh (Score:2, Interesting)

    Despite my best efforts, I cant help but apply human characteristics to Dexter the robot. I notice he (dammit! it..) has a rather ugly face, thus i'm naturally repelled by it. Stupid human brain, this is a wonderful demonstration of advanced robotics! Appreciate it! Its interesting though, logic telling me this is quite interesting, unconscious judgment saying ewww. Anyone else think along the same lines?
  • after reading the summary, I was expecting it to be pushed while it was walking. Instead it was standing around like a little punk while the other robot was trying to pick a fight or something.. "Yeah, biatch. What you gonna do about it, huh? Huh?" Pretty cool video, though.
  • Mr. Blackwell couldn't be reached for comment. A source close to him mentioned he was meeting with KITECH's creator of EveR-1, Baeg Moon-hong in San Marcos, CA with Abyss Creations, manufacturers of the Real Doll. While dumpster diving in Mr. Blackwell's refuse, multiple pages were found about a secret project code-named: C.H.E.R.R.Y.2000.
  • having untied shoes on his feet would mean they would flap around making it harder for him to walk properly.
  • Glad to finally see a robot with a bit of spine and standing up to bullies. I wish I had such a (role) model when I was a wee lad.
  • Because it looks like it's drunk!

    (hey, at least I didn't say "does it run Linux?" or "imagine a Beoulf cluster of those" and neither "In Soviet Russia, biped robots balance you!")
  • It looks disturbingly like a terminator prototype... a few more years of research and this thing will probably have guns for arms, and be blasting away at insurgents for us.
  • From the looks of that vid, one quick roundhouse kick would put that robot's face in the sand.

    He'll I'd hate to see what Jack Bauer could do to it!

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