Engineers from the Computational Robot Design & Fabrication Lab (CREATE) at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have introduced a quadruped robot inspired by dogs that can run autonomously without the aid of motors. This marks a departure from conventional robotic designs that heavily rely on control motors for movement.
Taking inspiration from the motor control processes of real dogs, the team studied the biological mechanisms of these animals. The result is a prototype that can initiate motion on its own and sustain it without motor assistance. The robot’s four legs, connected by three joints that operate in harmony, replicate the swift and coordinated movements of actual dogs.
The robot’s internal structure mirrors that of a dog, with metal rods serving as bones, 3D printed pulleys as joints, and thin wires as tendons, all held together with screws in a biomimetic approach employing bilateral symmetry.
“We’d like to push our design further with the motors, but for now the prototype isn’t very robust,” said researcher Michael Achkar.
“Our goal isn’t to compete with ultra-high-tech robotic dogs, but rather to explore bio-inspired robot designs. This entails honing a robot’s fundamental design and modifying its passive properties so that only simple control systems are needed – all while maximizing the robot’s capabilities. What we’ve done here – engineering the joints to work in synergy – has already proven useful for creating robotic hands and other body parts.”
In testing, the robot impressed the researchers by independently running on a treadmill, without support, as seen in the video above. The robot’s design incorporates a counterweight mechanism, akin to a pendulum, that injects energy to sustain its motion. While control motors can offer additional functionality, the team’s emphasis remains on refining the robot’s fundamental design for simplicity and versatility.
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