Bioinspired Control Architectures for Multilegged Locomotion - New Grant Awarded
22nd April 2010
Dr Andrew Spence has been awarded an EPSRC grant for £124,879 to study “Bioinspired Control Architectures for Multilegged Locomotion.” The project will support one postdoctoral researcher for 12 months, and fund the purchase of a robot to be used as a modelling platform for trotting animals. The grant first seeks to understand how dogs coordinate their legs at the trot, by studying their locomotion on surfaces of different stiffness. It will then test hypothesized control mechanisms by programming them into the robot, and comparing its motion on the same surfaces to that of the dog.
Photo copyright: A Spence (RVC Structure & Motion Lab)
The aim of this project is to understand the control mechanisms that many-legged animals use to move with such remarkable dexterity and economy. The study will take inspiration from dogs trotting over soft surfaces, measuring how they adjust their mechanics on soft going, and then testing hypothetical control architectures in a cutting edge legged robot: RHex. The study will have impact in a range of areas including medicine, veterinary care, animal welfare, and robotics. Knowing how many-legged animals adjust for different surfaces will aid in animal husbandry: designing enclosures that are safe for animals. An improved understanding of locomotor control will allow us to build better prosthetic devices, enabling amputees to walk naturally on rough terrain, to better diagnose and treat neurological problems, and to build more agile robots that assist us in space exploration, search and rescue, and disaster relief.
Past research has found that both bipedal and many-legged animals have mechanics that looks like a pogo stick when the run. In trotting animals their pogo stick is formed by the simultaneous action of two legs at once on the ground. Human compensate for soft surfaces by stiffening their pogo stick leg. At present we don’t know whether the same strategy of leg-stiffening is used by many-legged animals. This study will seek to test whether many-legged animals adjust the stiffness of their pogo-stick leg, or whether they compensate using a different mechanism.
Dr. Andrew Spence is an RCUK Academic Fellow in Biomechanics at the RVC.
Please see the Research News Archive for older stories.
02.11.10: Please see this news article for information about a research project that Caragh Kelleher undertook as a result of this grant.