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MABEL Robot Runs Like a Human

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the I-wanna-run-like-you-hoo-hoo dept.

Robotics 130

MrSeb writes "Researchers at the University of Michigan have created a running, obstacle-scaling robot. This robot, which is called MABEL (not an acronym), is capable of running at speeds of up to 3.06 meters per second, or 6.8 mph. Physically she is very similar to a human — a heavy torso, and light, springed legs that act as load balancers and shock absorbers — and with a clever feedback system, MABEL even runs like a human, spending 40% of her time three or four inches off the ground."

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130 comments

Hmmm... no bar?? (2)

krelvin (771644) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123426)

Not very much like me. I'm missing the bar attached to my hip. I can run straight too.... don't like circles.

Re:Hmmm... no bar?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37123624)

Anybody else notice how ugly most black women are? It is not just the frizzy nappy hair or the bitchy self-congratulatory look so many have on their faces. It is something more.

Seriously they are uglier than white women, asian women, mexican women, you name it. They're just not attractive. And most of them are fat.

Re:Hmmm... no bar?? (-1, Troll)

Nrrqshrr (1879148) | more than 2 years ago | (#37124022)

If I had mod points, I would have rated you Informative.
But I don't, so here is me commenting about it instead.

Re:Hmmm... no bar?? (2)

fatphil (181876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125148)

Indeed, the "boom for lateral stabilisation" was very subtle, wasn't it?

A lot of people in the robotics field will almost certainly have just sighed "oh, god, not *another* bipedal forward-backward-only walker/runner". There are already too many of those in the world (and I'm sure several that run a lot quicker than MABEL, but can't back that up with real data).

Re:Hmmm... no bar?? (3, Informative)

SnowZero (92219) | more than 2 years ago | (#37126848)

When I read the summary, I thought exactly that -- I wonder if this is another planar walker?

Planar walkers were already doing flips 20 years ago, and walking quite convincingly and naturally 12 years ago. Many of those researchers have moved to 3D now, with some of the most impressive recent work showing up at Boston Dynamics.

There still is good research that can be done on semi-passive force control and efficiency, and a lot of that can be tested on planar walkers. However, for the love of all that is honest, at least mention in the summary that all the things you are claiming are done in a 3 d.o.f. workspace rather than the 6 d.o.f. you have in the real world. A bar also offers a metric load of damping, which is the thing keeping the full-3D walkers from really working naturally, and thus that kind of simplification should be mentioned.

son of a! (0)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123458)

Is it wrong to think about that robot in a sexual way? The only problem is, if I was building it, I would have put a vagina somewhere there. Maybe two.

Re:son of a! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125346)

Every time I think I've seen the worst of humanity, some sonofabitch hits the reset button.

it needs feet (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123488)

It still looks weird without feet. It needs feet and big toes to be more like a human.

Oh, and also it needs to lose the metal beam connecting it to the circle, that's, I think, is the main difference between that and a human. That and all the metal.

Re:it needs feet (0)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123564)

It still looks weird without feet. It needs feet and big toes to be more like a human.

Oh, and also it needs to lose the metal beam connecting it to the circle, that's, I think, is the main difference between that and a human. That and all the metal.

No weirder than a political party without a brain.

Re:it needs feet (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37123952)

I know, can you believe all the liberals?

Re:it needs feet (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37124378)

Why do 'conservatives' think that they are so clever? Too many hours of the reactionary media has warped any sense of decorum or conduct of civility from most any conversation.

Lame. (1)

mkro (644055) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123512)

Boston Dynamics' PETMAN [youtube.com] could do its own balancing two years ago.

Re:Lame. (1)

kkemper (2440060) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123748)

Mabel is a research platform investigating efficient locomotion over rough(ish) ground. Mabel is already FAR more efficient than either petman or asimo. And petman can't (and probably never will) run.

Re:Lame. (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125604)

I'm just going t go out on a limb here and say as long as MABEL is out on a limb -- a lateral stabilization arm -- it's not "running', it's just doing the same thing a tank tread does: pushing hardware around by leverage. And yes, tank treads can propel the tank off the ground. See any fun M1A1 demo video.

Love to see this re-posted when (a) the only connection to the host computer is RF, and (b), the thing has feet so that it won't fencepost itself into the first soft ground it comes to (or damage sidewalks, etc.)

I mean really... this is not 'running'; the idea isn't separable from independent balance. Otherwise waterwheels 'run'.

3D Biped! (1)

l00sr (266426) | more than 2 years ago | (#37124714)

I believe the correct comparison is to one of the old MIT leg lab's robots. 3D Biped [mit.edu] wasn't restricted to a 1D track and could run and do somersaults [mit.edu]--in 1992. And it didn't need no stinkin' knees either!

Running free? (3, Informative)

Warwick Allison (209388) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123526)

Would be better if they'd explained in their YouTube text that they were only testing forward balance, not lateral stability. Instead they claim it is "Running free", which is laughable.

Re:Running free? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123834)

running free refers to the fact that there is a moment when both 'feet' are off the ground.

Re:Running free? (1)

quarterbuck (1268694) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123992)

Maybe true, but that is only exactly true if there is no vertical load applied on that bar tied to its "waist" .
Also that thing does not have any hands to provide the balancing force for the fact that one of its legs is ahead of the other, instead it uses a strange load on top of its "neck" to balance itself. That basically means that the "hips" of this robot does not twist like a human being walking. So the adjustment for forward balance actually prevents it from being laterally balanced.
(Human walking being right leg forward, left hand forward and the hip rotated slightly to the left providing the lateral stability).

Re:Running free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37127224)

running free refers to the fact that there is a moment when both 'feet' are off the ground.

I assume your supporting reasoning for this statement is along the lines of "absolutely none at all."

Better things... (0)

toxickitty (1758282) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123532)

1. God it's loud. 2. What is with the bar? 3. We have so much better things to spend money on. 4. God it's loud.

Re:Better things... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123588)

"3. We have so much better things to spend money on"
This again?

It's research. All new advance that help people come from RnD; which comes from science.

Can you really not think of a use for a robotic system that walks around? For the underlying technology?

Yeah, rockets are loud as well.

Re:Better things... (2)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123740)

I do agree that the general concept of getting general ideas for robots and advancing them is a good idea, although I do have to question the practicality of focusing on making them bipeds, Evolution saw biped as a function that wasn't worth adding for a very long time, instead it spent a few Milena on mastering quadrupeds while it waited for the AI to catch up to handle the balancing act that is biped walking (and even those units take close to a year to calibrate themselves), Personally I would imagine a modified tank tread system could be modified to get them fairly efficiently to most places humans go, just add a secondary system for tight turns etc... and some decent balance/grip mechanism for stairs. I think the emphasis on bipedal robots is what is slowing down the process of actually accomplishing most of what they are intended to do.

Re:Better things... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123806)

We don't know AI will catch up, and that really doesn't have anything to do with the hardware to get something to run.

With bipeds, you gain advantage the treads/wheels don't have, and visa versa. That's why there are teams all over the world working on both.

A biped robot on a distant planet has a lot of advantages a wheel bot doesn't.

Re:Better things... (1)

ByteSlicer (735276) | about 2 years ago | (#37127636)

to handle the balancing act that is biped walking (and even those units take close to a year to calibrate themselves)

I assume you're hinting at humans. But chicks of many bird species can walk just fine after an hour or so after hatching. And I'm certain it was the same for many species of bipedal dinosaurs...

Re:Better things... (1)

warchildx (1695278) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123594)

2. The bar is to keep the mammoth from tripping over on its non-existent face. watch the vid again, looks like it is about to trip over itself.

Re:Better things... (1)

dissy (172727) | more than 2 years ago | (#37124052)

1. God it's loud.

Yea, it's a machine. They tend to do that at this scale.
It's on par with the noise level of most other industrial machines at that size, especially important for comparison are hydrolic machines

2. What is with the bar?

That holds it up and feeds it power.
As stated, they are only testing forward balance, so the only requirement for that test is no support on the forward/backward axis. They said it can't yet balance completely. (And with no feet, I can understand why!)

3. We have so much better things to spend money on.

No we don't.
Basic research is fundamental to humanity progressing. Very very little exists that both deserves more money and hasn't already had money given to it to demonstrate the lack of success of throwing money at them.
If anything, basic research needs more money given to it, since time and time again it has been demonstrated you get the largest return on investment that way.

4. God it's loud.

Yea, it's a machine...

While people play zombie survival (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123570)

we build are own human replacement.

Yeah, shooting things in the head going to be real useful when the robots come~

Serious Sam? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37123584)

Give it a bomb and make it scream as it runs towards it's target...

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37123604)

"...spending 40% of her time three or four inches off the ground." Didn't know the programmers pleased her THAT much.

Very elegant lady (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123672)

Uhm.. Is little ms.. or that thing being dragged around in circles or what?

Re:Very elegant lady (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123760)

No, it's running on its own, the cable and poll are there in case of failure. The interesting thing there is the air time.That's a really big deal.

great. can she find the volume lever? (0)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123678)

jesus my ears are bleeding.

Why bipedal? (2)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123742)

That's the thing I just don't get with robot design. Why do we feel the need to give it bipedal locomotion? I could see a necessity for legs instead of wheels (more terrain mobility and all), but why not put it on four legs? Or six? And don't gimme that "so it has its arms free" explanation. We are not nature. We do not have to make the choice between arms and legs, we can have both on our robot.

because we are (4, Interesting)

Chirs (87576) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123794)

Our environment is designed for human-sized bipedal forms, so it makes a certain amount of sense to design robots that are generally the same size/shape. That way they can use our buildings, elevators, stairs, appliances, etc.

Re:because we are (5, Insightful)

EvilJoker (192907) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123876)

Additionally, the research may serve a purpose to humans - one easy example is that it may help create better artificial legs/etc, such as for wounded soldiers.

Re:because we are (4, Informative)

dbc (135354) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123918)

Yes, exactly. I was going to say this. In order for robots to melt into the background in office or home environments, the robot has to adapt to *our* environment, not us changing around our world to fit the robots. I'm extremely picky about getting my computer set up just the way I like it, because computers should serve *me*, not the other way around. Same goes for robots. I don't want to rebuild my home or office for the convenience of robots.

I do a lot of homebrew robotics. I, and everyone else, brings robots to club meetings in a motley assortment of tubs, bins, and cartons, and big robots go int the back of pick up trucks. -- bah, how primitive. A home service robot needs to be easy to transport. That means it has to fit in my car, exactly where a human would sit, without any accommodation. It needs to get to the second floor by going up the stairs, not by some "robot service elevator" put in just for it. So I think in the end we need to have a robust bi-pedal robot platform that folds in the same places that humans do and is human scale, because the world is built to human scale and built for beings that fold where humans do. Robots will only be useful when they can operate in our world without us having to remodel the world for robots.

Bi-pedal robots aren't worth pursuing for anthropomorphism -- bi-pedal robots are worth pursuing because they could fit easily into our world and disappear into the background.

Re:because we are (1)

joh (27088) | more than 2 years ago | (#37124512)

Bi-pedal robots aren't worth pursuing for anthropomorphism -- bi-pedal robots are worth pursuing because they could fit easily into our world and disappear into the background.

Wouldn't something like a dog do this much better?

nope (1)

Chirs (87576) | more than 2 years ago | (#37124808)

How would something like a dog cook your food, serve you drinks, put away your groceries, or turn on your light switches?

Re:nope (2)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125698)

...and c'mon, just admit it. You'd feel funny screwing something shaped like a dog, even if it was in a French maid outfit...

Re:because we are (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125188)

Real dogs are 10x more agile than humans 4 legs and all. Still they can't open doors or clean a counter.

Re:because we are (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125610)

my dog can open doors.

Re:because we are (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37126014)

All fine and nice, but shouldn't we first of all try to get a robot of whatever kind going and work from there? We spend a nontrivial amount of time trying to get them to walk upright, shouldn't we first of all get the "helpful" part into it before we hammer out the details?

I'm pretty sure someone who needs the assistance and can afford it would rather rebuild parts of his home to accommodate a helper robot rather than not having one 'cause we first of all want to make it perfect.

Re:because we are (1)

joh (27088) | more than 2 years ago | (#37124506)

But for some tasks things like this robot dog [youtube.com] look much more capable and it's also a bit easier to do (obviously, this video is from 2008). For military purposes a big robot dog seems to be totally possible.

Re:because we are (1)

SnowZero (92219) | more than 2 years ago | (#37126898)

Homes are the only thing that are still designed solely for bipeds. The public world is already mostly ADA compliant:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americans_with_Disabilities_Act_of_1990#Title_III_-_Public_Accommodations_.28and_Commercial_Facilities.29 [wikipedia.org]
(other countries have similar laws, some even more comprehensive)

I'd happily modify my house somewhat to accommodate robots (door handles, rails for climbing).

IMHO walking is not what is keeping robots out of our homes and our lives. It may be what is keeping them off of the battlefield however.

That's creepy... (1)

Colven (515018) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123758)

and it reminds me of that freaky 80's Herbie Hancock video, "Rockit". Still gives me the shivers...

always remember kids (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123772)

Always mount a scratch robot if the DEC service Representative is going to be working on things.

Not an acronym? (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123816)

If MABEL is not an acronym then why the fuck is it in all-caps?

Re:Not an acronym? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37123916)

Because you need to YELL HER NAME when you want to get her attention.

Re:Not an acronym? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37124132)

It's an accident. The researchers accidentally went temporarily deaf while watching in the same room as MABEL, and the diligent scribes took down exactly what they said [youtube.com].

Re:Not an acronym? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37124142)

did you watch the video? It so fF'ing loud that you need to YELL her name.

Re:Not an acronym? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125212)

Because it's a robot. Robots have names in all caps, to make them sound like terrifying, clanking metal horrors.

Re:Not an acronym? (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125722)

Um... I don't think MABEL needs caps to sound like a "terrifying, clanking metal horror" -- did you turn up your volume? lol

Anybots knocks this into a cocked hat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37123878)

Anybots.com has a MUCH better robot, that can stand on its own two feet, and jump. This is just a load of rubbish - being guided by a horizontal bar, no feet, really weird (and obviously WRONG) running motion, where it pauses as soon as the 'stump' hits the floor. Why didn't they just model it properly, on human running?

And would I be right in thinking that this robot wasn't developed by AFRICANS? Isn't that odd, seeing as they are allegedly just as intelligent as all the other races...

She? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37123964)

Why is that robot a she? Where are the breasts? Or does it simply complains a lot when it falls down?

Mabel - Whit's End (1, Interesting)

sayno2quat (1651749) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123972)

The first thing that comes to my mind is Adventures in Odyssey, which is a Christian radio broadcast. Whit, a main character and inventor, has a really advanced computer program with a voice interface named Mabel (kind of like Jarvis from Iron Man).

no feet? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#37123994)

That is interesting. It is actually decently forward balancing during the run and even when the mat slipped a bit it kept going.

Is she by chance a... pleasure model? (1)

sdguero (1112795) | more than 2 years ago | (#37124086)

This is stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37124244)

Really? Millions was spent on this shit.

Come on! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37124292)

Adapt their algorithm for the game QWOP [foddy.net] then we'll see whether it's good or not!!

Re:Come on! (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125814)

Simple enough. You've got two key combinations, insides and outsides. Just keep alternating between W-O (insides), and Q-P (outsides). The inside keys spread your legs apart making you more stable. The outside keys pull them in, to allow for the next kick off. You end up with one knee back and on the ground, and the other foot forward and on the ground. Just keep alternating and with proper timing, you'll get up to ~2m/s. If you get into trouble, just mash the insides and you'll recover. It may take some time to get started again.

Needs feet (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37124316)

A most crucial part of walking and running is feet with ankles. Without that, it's "something else." By adding feet, they are going to change just about everything about the machine and how it would operate. If they want to have human-like walking, then there must be feet and they should never have gone forward with this "internediate" step as adapting might be just as difficult as starting over.

What they have there is a backward-walking "pan" robot...without feet.

MABEL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37124322)

If 'MABEL' is not an acronym, WHY ARE WE SHOUTING?!

(ObJinxSticker: Caps lock: Cruise control for awesome)

Excellent. I typed the first line in all caps (it was intended as humor) and faceplanted against slashduh's "Filter error: Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING." -- me: exactly!

Retarded Toy Crap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37124360)

Didn't they already have that in the 1970ies?

W00T FP (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37124384)

80s, DARPA saw BSD To get involved in United Sta!tes.

hmmmkay (1)

2fuf (993808) | more than 2 years ago | (#37124388)

As impressive as this may be, it still makes me feel like we have an awful lot of explaining to do to the likes of Jules Verne, Nicola Tesla, Isaac Asimov etc. Surely they would have imagined the state of the art of robotica in 2011 to be... different

Free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37124396)

Not only is the robot supported by a beam it also is supported by external power delivery and probably external computing as well. Robots that can not carry a reasonable power supply might be usable in a small space but not elsewhere.

But does it run linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125428)

But does it run linux?

Re:But does it run linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125766)

But does it run linux?

Nope, it only runs around.





Thank you, thank you. I'm here all week.

It's late to be doing a planar biped. (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37126826)

It's nice that they're doing this, but it's a bit late to be doing a planar walking/running machine. (It's supported so that it can't fall sideways, so it's a 2D balancing system instead of a 3D one, and is considered "planar", although it's going in a circle.) Compare Spring Flamingo [mit.edu], 1996-2000 at MIT.

This group doesn't seem to be addressing slip control or hills (which I've worked on), or twist control (first addressed by Jessica Hodgkins at Georgia Tech and by Honda). As soon as you go beyond flat, high-friction floors (these guys use rubber mats), slip control starts to dominate the problem. Take a look at Big Dog videos.

Twist control involves not inducing torso rotation, or at least cancelling it on the next half-stride, and is an additional problem bipeds face more than quadrupeds. Honda had a lot of trouble with that in the early days of Asimo. Planar bipeds can't twist, so this group gets to ignore that problem.

It's easier to work in this area than it was in the 1990s. Simulators are much better. CPUs are much faster. The theory is better. Control algorithms are better. Motors are better. Funding is better. There's no need to work on an oversimplified version of the problem any more.

lazy editor 6.8 mph is what in km/h? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37127598)

is slashdot a usa zine?

like a human ??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37127612)

every other year people claim to have made a robot that "walks like a human". so far i have heard of one project where "walking" did not consume enormous amounts of energy (ie for producing noise like here). nevertheless, most engineers do not seem to have a faint clue what walking is about.
as an exercise, try plugging your ears, start walking and listen to how much you stomp on the ground impacting your spine when you walk.
i'd be convinced if such a machine could "walk" like an animal without earthshattering vibrations.

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