Freaky bipedal robot takes most human-like steps yet

We've seen many examples of freaky bipedal (and otherwise) walking bots, but one University of Arizona lab's pair of freaky disembodied legs mimics human muscle and tendon systems to create the most life-like gait yet.

Researchers Dr. M. Anthony Lewis and Theresa J. Klein have been working on developing an artificial "biarticulate muscle leg model" since 2008. The system uses motors pulling on tendon-like Kevlar straps to replicate the action of key muscle groups.

Their most recent model (see video below) incorporates even more human muscle components to form a very human-y walking gait. The 10 pound prototype still needs a support mechanism for balance, but otherwise can replicate a very organic pace.

The system utilizes the decentralized principal of a central pattern generator (CPG) to achieve these naturalistic movements. CPGs are systems in the body that produce rhythmic outputs locally without the necessary interaction of a main controller like the brain. Humans have been found to utilize CPGs for everyday activities such as chewing, swallowing, and respiration. You can almost think of CPGs as components of the native software you are born with. That's why babies mimic the act of walking before they learn to balance and coordinate with their brain centers later in life.

Humans use CPGs for walking via a neural network located throughout the lower spinal cord. A system the research team is aiming to replicate. A paper detailing thier work describes how their bot the bot "represents a complete physical, or 'neurorobotic', model of the system, demonstrating the usefulness of this type of robotics research for investigating the neurophysiological processes underlying walking in humans and animals."

I assume the Blade Runner universe had a moment like this in its fictional history. Just sayin'.

Plastic Pals, via Endgadget