How yo-yoing in the dark may help robots to walk better

February 18th, 2009 - 4:50 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Feb 18 (ANI): Scientists have developed a robot that can use a yo-yo in the dark without any visual information, which could be an important step towards creating highly mobile, low-cost robots that walk better.

Studying the motions involved in rhythmic activities such as playing with a yo-yo and juggling could help make robots more stable when walking, Peter Bentley, a specialist in bioinspired computing at University College London, told New Scientist.

The cyclic dynamics of the yo-yo may share some properties with the cyclic behaviours of limb movement, he said.

So, if we can get robots to play yo-yos more effectively, we may be able to get them to walk and run more effectively, too, he added.

The cyclic dynamics of the yo-yo may share some properties with the cyclic action of limb movement.

A team led by roboticist Leon Zlajpah at the Jozef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana, Slovenia, has previously developed software that allowed a robots arm to control a simulated yo-yo on a computer screen.

The robot used a camera to watch the progress of the yo-yo, allowing a control system to pull it upwards just before it reached the end of its string.

However, the sophisticated sensors and computer processing needed for a robot to perform tasks using their vision alone are expensive, according to Miriam Zacksenhouse, a roboticist at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

Cheaper robots that can work in all conditions, including darkness or bad weather, will need to feel their way through tasks such as walking or running.

So, Zacksenhouse and her colleagues have developed a robot that can use a yo-yo without any visual information.

Instead, it responds to the change of force, or kick, just before the yo-yo reaches the end of its unwinding string.

Their trick, to be reported in IEEE Transactions on Robotics, is to use the sensors on the robots arm to detect this kick and feed it back into the robots control system.

It is then used to tune the electronic circuit that drives the arm, so that it locks itself to the motion of the yo-yo.

We have learned to stabilize the yo-yo motion using the simple force feedback that arrives once every cycle, instead of continuous, complicated visual feedback, said Zacksenhouse. (ANI)

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