Meet MABEL, a 68 kg two-legged bipedal robot that can walk with a surprisingly human dexterity.
Jessy Grizzle of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Jonathan Hurst of Oregon State University built the automaton to walk blindly (without the aid of laser scanners or other optical technologies) and fast (it can run 1,6 km in 9 minutes). To navigate its environment, MABEL uses contact switches on its “feet” that send sensory feedback to a computer.
When MABEL steps off a 20 cm ledge, says Grizzle, as soon as its foot touches the floor, the robot is able to calculate the exact position of its body – and can do so faster and more accurately than a human. MABEL uses passive dynamics to walk efficiently – storing and releasing energy in glass fibre springs – rather than fighting its own momentum with its electric motors.
Watch as MABEL negotiates uneven terrain using touch instead of sight…
MABEL was recognised in the Popular Mechanics 2012 Breakthrough Awards – an annual competition where we salute the greatest advances. Get your hands on PM’s Dec ’12 issue – on sale on 19 November – to find out about the best bold ideas of 2012.
Credits: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor