This project is a collaboration between the Structure and Motion Lab of the Royal Veterinary College and the Dynamic Robotics Lab of the Oregon State University. Find out more about the motivation of this study and what it is all about here.
Walking and running is such a common, everyday activity among terrestrial animals, it is easy to forget that these gaits are complex dynamic behaviours that are still poorly understood. Animal locomotion requires coordination of active neuromuscular control with passive dynamics, which are determined by the physical characteristics of the musculoskeletal system. Different strategies for coordinating passive dynamics and active neuromuscular control significantly affect energy economy, stability and robustness of a gait to external disturbances. We hypothesise that animals exhibit a consistent control strategy that allows them to achieve robust and economic gait across a wide range of terrain conditions.
The scientific goal of this research is to develop a mathematical model which represents the minimal system that can reproduce the observed stable and economic bipedal locomotion of animals over a range of terrain conditions. The model helps us to understand the link between animal leg design, neuromuscular control, and running dynamics from an integrative, high-level perspective. It also provides guidelines for the design and control of robustly stable and economic legged robots, prosthetic legs and mobility assistance exoskeletons.
To accomplish this goal, we use animal experiments, computer simulation, and implementation on a running robot in an iterative process to create and validate a mathematical model of running. Experiments on running bipedal ground birds and on a bipedal robot include steady running over flat ground, and a range of terrain disturbance responses. Successful performance of our mathematical model and robot are based on whether it produces a structurally identical ground reaction force profile and center of mass motion as running birds.
The essential element of this collaboration is the application of both biomechanics and engineering approaches to solve a common question: What are the essential features of passive dynamics and active control required for economic and robustly stable legged locomotion?
The project is funded by the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP)