Thursday 27 October 2011

Controlled falling the robotic way

When teaching beginners to move in Tai chi, one of the first exercises to do is tai chi walking. This is where each step is taken by first place the foot and then transferring the weight, so that any time you can stop or reverse the action. This is different to normal walking which is called "controlled falling". This controlled falling type of motion is perfectly embodied by this new robotic walker, that can walk for up to 13 hours without any motors or active control!

The energy efficiency of controlled falling is exactly why we normally use it in daily life. However in tai chi terms, what you sacrifice is stability i.e. it would be very easy to trip this robot up. Robots are therefore evolving from a more stable "tai chi" like way of moving, into a more dynamically unstable "normal" way of moving. Ironic then that as humans we're trying to move the other way. Could it be that robots are just naturally better at tai chi*?

* Probably not :-)

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