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Strategy Based on Human Reflexes May Keep Legged Robots, Prosthetic Legs From Tripping

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Studying the way human legs are controlled.

A robotic leg prosthesis being developed at Carnegie Mellon University promises to help users recover their balance by using techniques based on the way human legs are controlled.

Credit: Carnegie Mellon News (PA)

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers have developed a robotic leg prosthesis that could help users recover their balance by using techniques based on the way human legs are controlled.

CMU professor Hartmut Geyer says the control strategy was devised by studying human reflexes and other neuromuscular control systems, and it shows promise in simulation and laboratory testing, producing stable walking gaits over uneven terrain and better recovery from trips and shoves. The technology will be further developed and tested over the next three years thanks to a $900,000 U.S. National Science Foundation grant.

"Our work is motivated by the idea that if we understand how humans control their limbs, we can use those principles to control robotic limbs," Geyer says. He thinks the research also could be applied to legged robots.

The researchers evaluated the neuromuscular model by using computer simulations and a cable-driven device about half the size of a human leg. They found the neuromuscular control method can reproduce normal walking patterns and it effectively responds to disturbances as the leg begins to swing forward.

"Robotic prosthetics is an emerging field that provides an opportunity to address these problems with new prosthetic designs and control strategies," Geyer says.

From Carnegie Mellon News
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