Robot sets record for longest walk

April 13th, 2008 - 12:30 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, April 13 (IANS) A robot has set an unofficial world record by walking non-stop a little over nine kilometres, until it stopped and fell because of a suspected battery run down. An earlier version of the robot, called the Cornell Ranger and created by Cornell University engineers, had walked over a kilometre. Other robots have walked up to 2.5 km on a treadmill, ScienceDaily reported.

What makes the Cornell Ranger unique is that, unlike other walking robots that use motors to control every movement, the Ranger emulates human walking, using gravity to help swing its legs forward, according to Andy Ruina, one of its creators.

There are no rules for such records, Ruina said, adding that the Guinness Book of World Records was not involved. “There’s a lot of rigmarole with that,” he explained. The event, he said, was to show off the machine’s energy efficiency.

At over nine kilometres, the robot suddenly toppled over backwards, but the engineers are not quite clear why, though they suspect a discharged battery.

“We need to do some careful analysis to find out for sure,” said Greg Stiesberg, a member of the team that created the Cornell Ranger.

The Cornell Ranger looks somewhat like a human on crutches and uses the same principle to walk - alternately swinging forward two outside legs and then two inside ones.

There are no knees, but at the ends of the legs are feet that can be tipped up and down, so that the robot pushes off with its toes, then tilts its feet upward to land on the heels as it brings its legs forward.

The goal of the research, Ruina said, was not only to advance robotics but also to learn more about the mechanics of walking. The information could be applied to rehabilitation and prosthetics for humans and even to improving athletic performance.

Ruina’s lab has built several walking robots of various designs. A model with flexible knees, designed to closely imitate human walking, consumed energy per unit weight and distance comparable to a human walker.

In contrast, Ruina estimates that the well-known Honda Asimo uses at least 10 times as much energy as a human when walking.

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