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Robot Unravels the Mystery of Walking

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the ha-ha-i've-been-walking-for-years-now dept.


manchineel writes with a link to a BBC article on the lessons learned from a project in locomotive robotics. 'Runbot', as it is known, is the result of a modern technology combined with a 1930s physiology study into human locomotion. The study found that walking is largely an automatic process; we only engage our brains when we have to navigate around an obstacle or deal with rough terrain. "The basic walking steps of Runbot, which has been built by scientists co-operating across Europe, are controlled by reflex information received by peripheral sensors on the joints and feet of the robot, as well as an accelerometer which monitors the pitch of the machine. These sensors pass data on to local neural loops - the equivalent of local circuits - which analyse the information and make adjustments to the gait of the robot in real time."

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Crawl before walk (5, Funny)

A non-mouse Coward (1103675) | about 7 years ago | (#19843165)

Don't we need a crawlbot before a runbot, or did I miss something here?

Re:Crawl before walk (1, Insightful)

MOBE2001 (263700) | about 7 years ago | (#19843759)

Don't we need a crawlbot before a runbot, or did I miss something here?

Yeah, indeed. None of these walking are that impressive, if you think about it. What would really catch my attention is a robot that gradually learns how to crawl, walk and run on its own, from scratch, just like humans do. Now, that would be something to write home about. In the meantime, I wish those builders of pre-programmed robots the best. Just have fun and keep the grant money flowing but don't tell me you are doing research in AI. You are just building glorified toys, IMO. One human's opinion, of course.

Re:Crawl before walk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19843853)

We also need a nipplebot for breastfeeding.... and nothing, nothing else.

Re:Crawl before walk (0, Redundant)

greylingrover (876207) | about 7 years ago | (#19843953)

...As wives around the world rejoice with hope that the Turn-off-the-game-and-take-out-the-damn-trash-you- lazy-piece-of-shit-bot will finally be coming out soon. ;)

Re:Crawl before walk (1)

pcgabe (712924) | about 7 years ago | (#19845043)

Of course! Here you go. []

It looks really creepy.

(Sorry, yes, pun intended)

Planar Walker i.e. 2D only (4, Interesting)

SnowZero (92219) | about 7 years ago | (#19843183)

If there's something the world probably didn't need, it's another planar walker [] . Of course, the researchers are probably quite honest about the limitations when applying this to full 3d walking, but all that is lost in the translation to an article and then a slashdot blurb.

Re:Planar Walker i.e. 2D only (1)

cicadia (231571) | about 7 years ago | (#19843301)

The article refers to the robot walking uphill, and learning to adjust its gait while doing so.

Of course, I may be missing something in your definition of "2D only", but it was probably lost in the translation to a page of useless google search results :)

Re:Planar Walker i.e. 2D only (2, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | about 7 years ago | (#19843453)

It is 2D only because the robot cannot move from side to side. It can only move forwards and backwards across a terrain that has varying heights. This type of thing is typical when researching locomotion. You either have the robot mounted on a treadmill, or on a central pivot [] so that it cannot fall over sideways.

Re:Planar Walker i.e. 2D only (1)

gomiam (587421) | about 7 years ago | (#19843893)

Being able to walk in one dimension is called 2D walking? Something doesn't add up here, unless that D stands for degree of movement, and I think that was used for joints, not whole robots.

Re:Planar Walker i.e. 2D only (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19843955)

its forwards backwards (1st dimension) and up and down an incline (2nd dimension). hence 2D.

Re:Planar Walker i.e. 2D only (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19843995)

Dimension #1 : forwards/backwards
Dimension #2 : up/down
Dimension #3 : left/right

So a 2D walker can move in the forwards/backwards dimension and the up/down dimension, but not in the left/right dimension. A 2D walker only has to balance against falling forwards or backwards, but doesn't teach us about falling over sideways or turning.

Re:Planar Walker i.e. 2D only (1, Redundant)

camperdave (969942) | about 7 years ago | (#19844043)

What are you missing? Forwards/Backwards is one dimension. Up/Down is another. That makes 2D.

Re:Planar Walker i.e. 2D only (1)

gomiam (587421) | about 7 years ago | (#19844315)

I still have my doubts. On a surface you can move at most in two directions. I don't find the surface having irregularities being relevant (you still keep moving over a 2D surface). Then again, it's nothing I will lose sleep over at this moment.

Re:Planar Walker i.e. 2D only (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 7 years ago | (#19845169)

Ah, I see your dilemna. The robots do travel in one dimension along a vertically varying surface, and I agree, this doesn't truely count as another dimension. However, the robots are not stuck to the surface. They can hop, leap, do backflips, etc.

Re:Planar Walker i.e. 2D only (1)

gomiam (587421) | about 7 years ago | (#19846459)

Ok, _that_ I didn't know. Thanks for the information.

Re:Planar Walker i.e. 2D only (5, Funny)

bytemap (890960) | about 7 years ago | (#19844267)

Interestingly, because of your post, the fourth link on the google search is now this page.

Re:Planar Walker i.e. 2D only (1)

MrEd (60684) | about 7 years ago | (#19845659)

Here's a bit more capable (and lower to the ground) mobile robot: RHEX [] . It can clamber over rocks, forest, and field, plus swim...

hmm (1)

icebones (707368) | about 7 years ago | (#19843189)

The study found that walking is largely an automatic process

So why can't some people walk and chew gum at the same time?

Re:hmm (1)

sam_paris (919837) | about 7 years ago | (#19843209)

There are people who can't walk and chew gum at the same time?!

Wouldn't they have appeared on Ripleys Believe It Or Not?

Re:hmm (2, Funny)

Tree131 (643930) | about 7 years ago | (#19843227)

Because chewing is probably another automatic process that, takes up 100% CPU which leads to walking being stifled and user coming to a complete stop until a kill command is issued.

Re:hmm (1)

gomiam (587421) | about 7 years ago | (#19843919)

"So may assholes, so few bullets".

Re:hmm (2, Insightful)

Xeirxes (908329) | about 7 years ago | (#19844293)

shouldn't this be marked funny instead of informative? :)

Re:hmm (1)

SimplexO (537908) | about 7 years ago | (#19844607)

Problems like that won't happen anymore with the new Completely Fair Scheduler (CFS).

Re:hmm (1)

mwanaheri (933794) | about 7 years ago | (#19843393)

Walking definitely is largely an automatic process. Just go to town: Most people walk around mindless. Maybe chewing alone is already confusing enough to them to interrupt even the automatic processes. Something like 'kernel panic'.

Re:hmm (1)

sufijazz (889247) | about 7 years ago | (#19843607)

Funny...I have never been able to walk and light a cigarette at the same time.
But in any case, isn't the cerebelluem [] required for motor skills and maintaining balance while walking?

Re:hmm (3, Interesting)

windex82 (696915) | about 7 years ago | (#19844159)

I've heard that since humans are one of the few mammals that walk solely on our hind legs and lack of any sort of balancing appendage walking is more of a series of controlled falls. I believe it was from a show on the new National Geographic HD channel. It tested the force that several martial arts strike at. It was Mythbusters style and intended to test lore of old martial arts movies. I'm not sure how valid any of it was though.

  It would be interesting to see if people with a higher level of balance could do more while walking than people who were more clumsy.

Re:hmm (1)

VON-MAN (621853) | about 7 years ago | (#19846405)

"lack of any sort of balancing appendage"
I don't think that's right. I broke a small bone in my hand about a month and a half ago (moving a washing machine), and had my lower arm and hand in a cast for a month. I almost fall over a few times when trying to compensate my position and movements with my arms. What's more, when you make an uncontrolled fall you definitely use your arms to compensate by making circular motions and so.

Re:hmm (1)

The Dotmeister (1043252) | about 7 years ago | (#19843799)

Hey I've never been able to walk and drink coffee at the same time. So now whenever I want to sip a little caffeine I grab a chair and drink it...

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19844075)

because they're politicians. duh.

I thought it said wanking (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19845191)

was an automatic process.

Frist psot (4, Funny)

cnettel (836611) | about 7 years ago | (#19843249)

Now, if someone could just describe the finger-arm reflexes needed to make a first comment post and implement that in some kind of program or robot thingy...

Re:Frist psot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19844309)

It's called LWP::Agent

what awesome bodies we have (5, Insightful)

sam_paris (919837) | about 7 years ago | (#19843257)

Everytime I read another study about how scientists have tried to replicate something humans find easy, and only manage to produce something that performs the task awkwardly, stupidly or otherwise ineptly, I feel vaguely in awe of how amazing the human body is.

Especially considering we appear to be a result of dumb luck and retarded fish monkeys..

Re:what awesome bodies we have (2, Interesting)

ShaggyIan (1065010) | about 7 years ago | (#19843581)

It gets even creepier when you realize how much of your body isn't human, but symbiotic bacteria and such.

For reference []

Re:what awesome bodies we have (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19843729)

The mistake that robot builders ontinue to make is that they seem to think the human body is static.

Much of why we move how we move is based on that fact that our joints are not based on a solid object against a solid object. There is a lot of catiledge, muscle, and 'soft spongy stuff' that can give and mold and adapt to surfaces and variable forces. We also have muscles wrapped around that can pull in multiple directions at different forces.

No where near like these 'walking robots' you keep seeing them try to build

Re:what awesome bodies we have (1)

dancpsu (822623) | about 7 years ago | (#19844393)

There is some research in "powered passive dynamic walking" that is more along the lines of taking into account the body's natural swinging motions. It isn't spongy cartiledge and wrapped muscle tissue, but it's better than this.

Yuur missing a piece (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 7 years ago | (#19843751)

You are missing a critical pice in your statment.
it should be:
"Especially considering we appear to be a result of dumb luck, retarded fish monkeys, and time.."

People just can't or don't take time into account naturally. You see it all the time.

Re:Yuur missing a piece (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19845765)

What? You mean he didn't mention all 6000 years of evolution? For shame!

Re:what awesome bodies we have (2, Interesting)

dancpsu (822623) | about 7 years ago | (#19844371)

You might want to look at passive dynamic walking [] to see something that walks a little less like a bird on speed. I don't think these researchers are completely out of the "must be in total control of every slight movement" mode.

Re:what awesome bodies we have (0)

kEnder242 (262421) | about 7 years ago | (#19844523)

"only manage to produce something that performs the task awkwardly, stupidly or otherwise ineptly"
Or they could miss the point entirely. FTA:

"About half of the time during a gait cycle we are not doing anything, just falling forward. We are propelling ourselves over and over again - like releasing a spring."
I'm sorry, but when I walk, I am not constantly falling forward (maybe a little when I run). Anybody who has actually studied the art of body movement (i.e. past the toddler stage of just getting by) should know that there are better ways to walk than this.

Re:what awesome bodies we have (4, Interesting)

armareum (925270) | about 7 years ago | (#19845301)

Actually, there *are* two different methods to walking. One is the referred to 'falling' method where we lean forward and place a foot out to catch ourselves. The other is where we extend our leg out and then transfer the weight afterwards.

You can tell if you are doing the former if you trip when your foot catches something. The latter method is recommended for use by aged people due to the decrease in response time and hence increase risk of falling (falling having a higher risk of injury in the elderly due to weaker bones)

Re:what awesome bodies we have (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19844597)

Just how amazing do you expect something designed by retarded fish monkeys to be?

Re:what awesome bodies we have (1)

BlackRookSix (943957) | about 7 years ago | (#19844827)

You're right. You mastered walking on birth, and simply lost the 35mm projectors vids your parents took?

Please. Amazing? It took you YEARS to master walking, and that is with a LOT of brain activity and non-automatic compensation training caused by your mistakes (falls, trips, tumbles). Yet people are stumped why this robot can't figure it out. How well could it walk in a month if given learning capability?

learn from mistakes (2, Funny)

A non-mouse Coward (1103675) | about 7 years ago | (#19843261)


He said Runbot learned from its mistakes, much in the same way as a human baby.
How much are the replacement hands that touch the stove?

Mixed signals (5, Funny)

langelgjm (860756) | about 7 years ago | (#19843263)

I'm getting some mixed signals from this article:

"How does Runbot walk?"

"The basic walking steps of Runbot"

"When Runbot first encounters a slope these low level control circuits 'believe' they can continue to walk up the slope without having to change anything."

"Runbot walks in a very different way from robots like Asimo, star of the Honda TV adverts, said Prof Woergoetter."

"The first step in building Runbot was creating a biomechanical frame that could support passive walking patterns."

"So using the information from its local circuits Runbot can walk on flat surfaces at speeds of more than three leg lengths per second."

"Prof Woergoetter said Runbot was able to learn new walking patterns after only a few trials."

"Runbot is a small, biped robot which can move at speeds of more than three leg lengths per second, slightly slower than the fastest walking human."

And last but not least:

"Four other scientists - Poramate Manoonpong, Tao Geng, Tomas Kulvicius and Bernd Porr - are also involved in the project, which has been running for the last four years."

Sorry guys, but it really isn't living up to it's name.

Re:Mixed signals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19843433)

Run like the wind, little Runbot...Run!

Re:Mixed signals (1)

AnotherBlackHat (265897) | about 7 years ago | (#19844049)

Maybe the name walkabot was already taken.

pfft (1)

djupedal (584558) | about 7 years ago | (#19843295)

"..controlled by reflex information received by peripheral sensors ..., as well as an accelerometer which monitors the pitch of the machine. These sensors pass data on to..."


Someone had to say it.

Re:pfft (1)

Penguinshit (591885) | about 7 years ago | (#19843375)

That would be "Rollbot"...

Obvious? (1)

blhack (921171) | about 7 years ago | (#19843367)

Hasn't this been known for quite a while? The actual task of walking is something that takes WAY too much computation (for lack of a better term) than the conscious brain is capable of. The same goes for quite a few other tasks that we perform. Think about image recognition, or throwing and catching a ball, or TYPING! Howabout READING!!

imagine a beowulf cluster of human brains!

Re:Obvious? (1)

flappinbooger (574405) | about 7 years ago | (#19843553)

imagine a beowulf cluster of human brains!
like this? []

Re:Obvious? (2, Funny)

blhack (921171) | about 7 years ago | (#19843617)

The Matrix wasn't a beowulf cluster, it was a myspace clone.

Re:Obvious? (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | about 7 years ago | (#19843723)

actually it was more like a *their* space clone...unless you are one of those redpills

Re:Obvious? (2, Funny)

MORB (793798) | about 7 years ago | (#19843557)

imagine a beowulf cluster of human brains!

That's called Internet, and the results have been mixed so far.

Re:Obvious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19843639)

imagine a beowulf cluster of human brains!
*yawn* and I for one welcome our more realistically walking robotic overlords

Re:Obvious? (1)

the_humeister (922869) | about 7 years ago | (#19843775)

imagine a beowulf cluster of human brains!

That's called the "Borg Collective." For some reason, Star Trek didn't depict it in such a good light, although I thought the borg queen was "hot" in a Hellraiser-type of way.

Re:Obvious? (4, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | about 7 years ago | (#19843901)

Walking isn't an unconscious process because it's too complex for consciousness -- what kind of argument is that? The most complex thinking that humans do (inventing new math, plotting the course of a rocket, designing a 10 million line software system, etc.) is all done CONSCIOUSLY. According to your argument, these tasks should be happening UNconsciously.

Walking is an unconscious process because it doesn't HAVE to be conscious. Why pollute our conscious minds with thought processes that are irrelevant, when all we're trying to do is walk to the fridge and get a beer?

Thought processes tend to be made unconscious once they have been learned and refined to the point where the conscious mind is no longer needed to supervise and correct mistakes. I've noticed this first hand when writing code. I no longer find myself thinking "Okay, I need to declare a variable called x," it just sort of comes out of my fingers, while my conscious mind thinks at some more abstract level. Didn't used to be that way. The ability to place tasks into your unconscious mind is a learned skill, I think.

Re:Obvious? (1)

blhack (921171) | about 7 years ago | (#19844377)

Think linear vs parallel. Walking requires making many many calculations per second, and many at the same time. Writing a piece of software, or plotting the course of a rocket....don't.

Re:Obvious? (1)

kaizokuace (1082079) | about 7 years ago | (#19844513)

if its time for computer analogies.... i would tend to think that the parts of the brain that control things we dont consciously control (organ function, digestion, walking, senses, etc) are like hardware accelerated parts (a sensor package for converting your senses into usable data for your consciousness and preparing other data for some other hardware to use, etc). The conscious mind is like software for doing higher functions like thinking, imagining, inventing and whatnot. Anyway you get the idea.

Re:Obvious? (3, Interesting)

KillzoneNET (958068) | about 7 years ago | (#19844587)

Here's a quick way of knowing whether or not walking is a conscious or not.

When walking down a path or on a sidewalk, have you ever found that the ground below your feet isn't there and you find yourself falling a bit in a panic-state (ie - adrenaline rush and fear)? This usually happens when you walk past a down step or gradient that you did not foresee.

You never think about it but your body is just reacting to the change and trying frantically to find a solid ground. Its not a truly conscious behavior until your body immediately tells your senses a semi-false signal that your falling.

Walking therefore is mostly an unconscious and reactive action that is learned from understanding the information that your body gives while performing the act.

Muscle Memory (3, Interesting)

Mal-2 (675116) | about 7 years ago | (#19844835)

Any act you repeat frequently enough becomes partially hardwired into the nervous system, and we call it "muscle memory" (though of course it is neurons that retain the memories). If you have ever learned to play an instrument beyond the beginner level, you will know that you cannot possibly process everything that needs to be done, in real time, in the conscious mind. At some level, you have to just put it on autopilot. You need the conscious mind to read the chart or pick out the harmonies, but you expect that the skills necessary to translate your ideas into sound will just be there. If you're thinking "how do I play that note", it's already gone by.

If you want to play an instrument and sing at the same time, or play two independent instruments at once (piano and especially organ are close enough to qualify, as is something like a Chapman Stick or Megatar), you have to rely on muscle memory that much more, as you now have twice as much to deal with. Doing all that and singing at the same time is more difficult still, and there are plenty of great musicians who never learn this particular stunt. The only way I can play and sing at the same time is to drill one or the other (usually the instrument) until I can do it by habit alone, then layer the other one over it and hope it holds together. Fortunately, woodwind players are not frequently asked to sing while playing, or to play two instruments at once, and if I do have to sing while playing, it's not really an independent act but part of coaxing a particular sound from the instrument.

As is the case with walking, the trick is to practice (a lot) and to accept that you will fall down (a lot) until you get the hang of it. Most of us just don't remember how hard we had to work to learn to walk. Some have to re-learn and could tell you how tough it is, and others still bear the scars of learning in infancy -- I have a scar in one eyebrow from falling into the edge of a table while still learning to walk (and a matching one in the other eyebrow, from learning to fight, but that is another story).


Re:Muscle Memory (1)

complete loony (663508) | about 7 years ago | (#19845811)

I've been reading books to my kids every night for the last 5 or so years. I've found that I have even abstracted the process of reading aloud. So while reading I'm thinking of something completely different. It does get a bit strange when I get distracted by something else I can see and try to look at it. At which point I realise that I was supposed to be reading, but I've completely lost what I was up to since I wasn't really paying attention.

Re:Muscle Memory (1)

Spacezilla (972723) | about 7 years ago | (#19846587)

I have the same problem when reading books (to myself, in my head). Sometimes I get bored and my mind starts wandering, thinking about other things, while I continue reading. Several pages later, I will have absolutely no idea what I read, and I'll have to go back to the last point I remember. :(

Re:Obvious? (1)

CherniyVolk (513591) | about 7 years ago | (#19845399)

The most complex thinking that humans do (inventing new math, plotting the course of a rocket, designing a 10 million line software system, etc.) is all done CONSCIOUSLY.

This is not true. New math you say? Plotting the course of a rocket you say? No math is "new", it might be "new" to Man, but it's not like Nature wasn't using it since day one. So it's not new at all. Catagorizing and labelling things is NOT difficult, and I don't care how complex the math problem is, that is really all it is, is a label and description of a reocurring natural event or pattern.

Apparently, a four year old child can pour a glass of milk, and real-time judge trajectory as he learns to play catch. But, none of that, is conscious. Infact, I often argue that genius is nothing more than a better ability to understand how ones ownself solves their own problems. Most people have no clue about Trajectory equations as Man has described in "Physics", yet, every person well understands trajectory, and naturally adheres and demonstrates awareness of the natural mandate; at the same time the fools who memorize the fallible equations somehow think they are more familiar with it than anyone else.

As much as Man has accomplished, it really is very little in the grand scheme of things. And the most complex ideas Man has, really aren't profound enough to explain or compare to Natures most simple and mundane events (like said pouring a glass of milk). And then, Nature has awe inspiring events/patterns... there's stuff yet to discover, stuff known for years yet to be understood.... Man's only complexity is outside of his control, this is fact.

Re:Obvious? (1)

lymond01 (314120) | about 7 years ago | (#19844313)

imagine a beowulf cluster of human brains!

Ugh...first thing I thought of was Congress. That would be a case of THz processing in each of the nodes, with a slightly misconfigured 2600 baud modem for the interconnects...

is it me.... (1)

Elsapotk421 (1097205) | about 7 years ago | (#19843387)

or does anyone else find it a little funny how they did a study on a task that's as basic as putting right in front of left and vice versa?

runbot homepage (5, Informative)

ceroklis (1083863) | about 7 years ago | (#19843471)

The researcher's page on the robot [] . Check the videos they are quite amazing.

Re:runbot homepage (2, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about 7 years ago | (#19844873)

Also, here's the cited paper. []

This isn't that novel. It's very much like Randall Beer's insect work [] from a decade ago. It's hierarchical control using controllers built from control blocks the authors call "neurons". It's a pure reflex system, with no explicit prediction.

Also notice that it's a planar biped, constrained so that it can't fall sideways.

There's better locomotion and balance work going on in Japanese hobbyist robotics.

It's good that people are working on this stuff again. There was some impressive work in the 1980s and early 1990s, then a big lull.

Cats do more or less the same thing (5, Interesting)

sokoban (142301) | about 7 years ago | (#19843473)

I remember from my animal physiology classes seeing experiments about how cats walk. Apparently quite a few of the nerves which control the muscles used for walking can be severed prior to the dorsal root ganglion, and when placed on a treadmill the cats will still walk just fine even though there is no signal going from the brain to the muscles themselves.

Re:Cats do more or less the same thing (1)

AssCork (769414) | about 7 years ago | (#19843659)

Yeah but cats don't pull peoples arms out of their sockets when they lose....

Runbots are known to do that.

Re:Cats do more or less the same thing (4, Funny)

D-Cypell (446534) | about 7 years ago | (#19844053)

Great! Another reason to distrust cats! As if having 9 lives, yet the possibility of existing in some kind of half dead/half alive quantum state and to also be gifted with the pure lack of modestry required to sit in a public place and lick your own nuts wasn't enough! Now I know that you can mangle up their legs, severing contact between brain and muscle and the fucking things can still do 40 minutes of cardio!

Walking Research (5, Funny)

Strange Ranger (454494) | about 7 years ago | (#19843505)

The British have been working on this for years! []

It's nice to see the Runbot "has been built by scientists co-operating across Europe".

Re:Walking Research (1)

heauxmeaux (869966) | about 7 years ago | (#19843705)

That explains the lack of reasearch in the British dental sciences....

It did not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19843525)

robot did not unravel the mystery. it merely reinforced the idea that local processing can make robots walk in an efficient manner. mystery was unraveled 70 years ago by Russian physiologist Nikolai Bernstein.

Backyard ant experiment (4, Interesting)

Coward Anonymous (110649) | about 7 years ago | (#19843571)

Ants have a fully autonomous walking sub-system. Here is how you find out:
1. Arm yourself with a box cutter, straight razor, razor blade or scalpel
2. Capture your favorite back yard ant.
3. Cut off the ant's head. Be careful not to hurt anything else, don't smash any legs and don't crush any other body parts. If you don't get it right with the first try, try again on your next favorite ant.
4. Discard the head as neither you nor the ant can use it anymore.
5. Let go of the rest of the ant

The ant should now right itself and stand as if awaiting movement instructions.
Some fun experiments:
1. Blow gently on the ant. It should sway in the breeze but generally remain upright.
2. Flick (or blow harder on) the ant without smashing it so that it tumbles some distance. It will right itself and patiently await further instructions.
3. Place the ant on a piece of paper, wait for it to right itself and then flip the paper over. The ant should stay attached to the paper.

Ants are truly miniature engineering marvels.

Re:Backyard ant experiment (5, Funny)

ilikejam (762039) | about 7 years ago | (#19843627)

This is either a sign of a misspent youth, or excessive post-grad funding.

Re:Backyard ant experiment (5, Funny)

iluvcapra (782887) | about 7 years ago | (#19844165)

In other words, misspent youth.

Re:Backyard ant experiment (1)

MollyB (162595) | about 7 years ago | (#19844531)

Curious. Is this capra you luv the film director or the goat genus? Are you by coincidence unrelated to GP, though you have similar usernames?
Is this a case of a conversation between identical carbon-units? I'm personally too lazy to create more 'me's, so I answer myself via AC like norbal people. If I am wrong, I'm sorry. Carry on...

Re:Backyard ant experiment (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | about 7 years ago | (#19846641)

His name was Frank, and Meet John Die was the greatest film ever made. ;)

TFA say, humans are fully autonomous too. (1)

Tatarize (682683) | about 7 years ago | (#19844041)

Why the hell don't they tell us this kind of stuff sooner? I've been forcing myself to think, "Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot... for going on 25 years now!"

Re:Backyard ant experiment (2, Funny)

iknowcss (937215) | about 7 years ago | (#19844515)

What are you doing posting these kinds of things on slashdot? Some one out there might actually go into their back yard with a grey razor knife, struggle to catch an ant, saw its little head off, and then watch as it behaves exactly like this post suggests.

Dammit I need to get better at cutting the head of without cutting the front two legs off. Err .. I mean ...

Re:Backyard ant experiment (1)

zaibazu (976612) | about 7 years ago | (#19845203)

Hmm, a bit like the beheaded chicken that keeps running for some seconds ?

Robot unvravels the mystery of niggers! (0, Troll)

Asshat_Nazi (946431) | about 7 years ago | (#19843585)

i like cornbreads and fried chicken..


Fastest walking human? (2, Interesting)

Sciros (986030) | about 7 years ago | (#19843589)

3 leg lengths per second is just short of the speed of the "fastest walking human"?? Somehow I doubt that. Racewalking is an Olympic even, even, and I know that some folks can do like a 6-min mile walking. Assuming a leg length is a yard, that robot would take closer to 10 minutes to walk a mile. So... it's kind of a dubious claim.

Re:Fastest walking human? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 7 years ago | (#19843703)

"Race Walking" is not walking.

It should be called "moving as fast as you can while making contact with the ground so that no visible (to the human eye) loss of contact occurs." Granted it's wordy. Rave Walking uses different muscles, and different movement of the legs.

average walking speed is 4-5 MPH. I walk a ten minute mile, and I am considered quick.

Not to imply in anyway 'Race walking' is easy, it's just different then actual walking.

Re:Fastest walking human? (1)

pclminion (145572) | about 7 years ago | (#19843929)

I'm curious why people would invent such a sport, when they could just RUN instead. I understand that normal walking is less stressful on the body than high-impact running, but the way you describe this "race walking" it hardly seems casual and free of stress. In fact, I could imagine giving yourself some weird injury due to the strain of trying to KEEP one foot always in contact with the ground while moving so quickly. Why not just let the legs come off the ground and RUN?

Re:Fastest walking human? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 7 years ago | (#19844335)

I have no idea.

I don't personally do that, but I was interested in the why, so I looked into it.

Regardless of the excuses, the bottom line is: Because they want to.

Re:Fastest walking human? (1)

digitalhermit (113459) | about 7 years ago | (#19844869)

Walking, either normally or "race", is still a lot more efficient than running. In sprints, the knees move up quite high. In long distance running, it's more efficient, but still nowhere near that of a walk. I can run for 30 minutes at about 6.0 mph, but I can walk for hours at 4.0 mph.

Re:Fastest walking human? (2, Informative)

jrumney (197329) | about 7 years ago | (#19844133)

The Olympic record is 1:19 for 20km. That is in the same ballpark as a 6 minute mile, and what the website quotes for fastest human (4 - 5 leg lengths per second). The point is that other robots have all been under 1.5 leg lengths per second, so this is a big leap if leg lengths per second is a valid measurement of performance. Previous robots have had much longer legs though, so if this one doesn't scale up, then it still might not beat them.

Great;_What_Next? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19843603)

What about sex?
When will they automate that?

and it'll never get out of the lab (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#19843633)

Great research! Where can I buy a bipedal robot kit with this technology for my next robot project? Oh, I can't. Too bad.

So if I want a bipedal robot I have to duplicate your work. Maybe I can read your scientific papers and that will give me 10% of the knowledge you gained in doing this project, but I still have to turn theory into practice.

Commercialize your research already.

The mystery of falling over. . . (2, Funny)

Slicebo (221580) | about 7 years ago | (#19843821)

This weekend (with my bottle of tequila) I'll be testing the mystery of falling over.

Once again... (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about 7 years ago | (#19843887)

Science has proven that health-weenies in the form of joggers are mindless.

Almost got it.... (3, Interesting)

Erythros (140001) | about 7 years ago | (#19843993)

The feedback system is certainly a step in the right direction as well as using the idea of the "falling forward" concept of walking. For the other posters who stated it "walked funny" you didn't notice that the ankles of the Runbot are locked in position and it merely rolls on its "foot" until the next step. You try walking with your ankles in a fixed position and we will see if you don't look funny doing so. If the feedback system can be extended to small motors in the ankles I think the appearance of the Runbot walking would be a lot more realistic, and therefor a lot more acceptable to the anal, obcessive-compulsive Slashdot community.

Previous trouble with walking (2, Insightful)

Xeirxes (908329) | about 7 years ago | (#19844327)

I think one of the main problems so far with walking robots is that while they can move their joints and things accurately, they can't fine-tune the movement very well. I think the first step might be to add sensors on the feet. It might seem strange, but us humans can feel how much weight is on either leg. Until the robot can detect how much weight is being placed on each foot, I doubt it'll be able to walk with the proficiency of a human.

Philisophical Implications (1)

Doomstalk (629173) | about 7 years ago | (#19844383)

This seems to me to be of philosophical interest. Namely to the frame problem, and objection to artificial intelligence theory which claims that a computer isn't capable of efficiently ignoring information that's not of immediate importance. That's exactly what this robot does, though. It should be interesting to see if any debate comes out of it.

mystery? (1)

SolusSD (680489) | about 7 years ago | (#19844413)

I'm pretty sure we know how walking works and how humans came to walk the way they do- evolution by the process of natural selection. Teaching a computer to "evolve" in the same fashion is nothing new- they've been doing this stuff for decades. Heck, one of my AI class projects involved genetic programming where the most *fit* code was passed on to the necxt generation.

I prefer the Wabian-2 (3, Funny)

pcgabe (712924) | about 7 years ago | (#19844967)

More natural-looking (albeit slower) performance from the Wabian-2. []

Swiveling hips are the way of the future. ^_^ Here is a demonstration video. [] (The giant mech shooting balls at people afterward is unrelated...)

Also check out the related robot Kiyomori. [] Because nothing says "We are here to protect you" like traditional armor and GLOWING EYES.

Expert Says Don't Worry About RunBot (1)

mattnyc99 (1008511) | about 7 years ago | (#19844999)

The author of "How to Survive a Robot Uprising" says marching 'bots like RunBot won't be terrorizing our towns anytime soon [] . We sure about that?
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