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Firmer Footing For Robots With Smart Walking Sticks

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A SupraPed robot using a smart staff.

The idea of SupraPeds is to increase locomotion stability by incorporating a pair of actuated smart staffs with vision and force sensing that transforms biped humanoids into multi-legged robots.

Credit: Oussama Khatib, Stanford University; Shuyun Chung, Stanford University

Stanford University researchers have developed SupraPed, a robotic platform that uses "smart staffs," inspired by walking sticks, to better balance and move over uneven terrain. SupraPed can use the staffs to explore the terrain, expand the range of movements that are possible, and communicate a sense of touch to a human at a remote site.

The research is supported by a U.S. National Science Foundation grant as part of the National Robotics Initiative, which is an effort to develop the next generation of robots that work beside or cooperatively with people.

The smart staff is equipped with three-dimensional vision capabilities and tactile sensors that can assess the surface's topography, the friction of the material, its ability to sustain weight, and other relevant information.

The Stanford researchers also created a suite of algorithms and control mechanisms enabling the robot to incorporate and control the staff. The algorithms are focused on the relationship between internal forces and movement control, enabling them to overcome existing problems and provide improved stability for the SupraPed.

Some of the existing problems included balancing a changing center of mass during an activity, which is difficult in rough, irregular terrain, and even tougher with a system that employs input from four independent surfaces to balance and move.

From National Science Foundation
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Abstracts Copyright © 2014 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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