A walking robot called human: lessons to be learned from neural control of locomotion.
SourceJournal of Biomechanics, 35, 4, (2002), pp. 447-53
Article / Letter to editor
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Oral Function and Prosthetic Dentistry
Journal of Biomechanics
SubjectBrain and Behaviour / Bioelectricity; Hersenen en Gedrag / Bio-elektriciteit
From what we know at present with respect to the neural control of walking, it can be concluded that an optimal biologically inspired robot could have the following features. The limbs should include several joints in which position changes can be obtained by actuators across the joints. The control of mono- and biarticular actuators should occur at least at three levels: one at direct control of the actuators (equivalent to motoneuron level), the second at indirect control acting at a level which controls whole limb movement (flexion or extension) and the third at a still higher level controlling the interlimb coordination. The limb level circuits should be able to produce alternating flexion and extension movements in the limb by means of coupled oscillator flexor and extensor parts which are mutually inhibitory. The interlimb control level should be able to command the various limb control centers. All three control levels should have some basic feedback circuits but the most essential one is needed at the limb control level and concerns the decision to either flex or extend a given limb. The decision to activate the extensor part of the limb oscillator has to be based on feedback signalling the onset of loading of the limb involved. This should be signalled by means of load sensors in the limb. The decision to activate the flexor part of the limb oscillator has to depend on various types of feedback. The most important requirement is that flexion should only occur when the limb concerned is no longer loaded above a given threshold. The rule for the initiation of limb flexion can be made more robust by adding the requirement that position at the base of the limb ("hip") should be within a normal end of stance phase range. Hence, human locomotion is thought to use a number of principles which simplify control, just as in other species such as the cat. It is suggested that cat and human locomotion are good models to learn from when designing efficient walking robots.
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