Remember the University of Michigan’s dynamically stable biped MABEL? Some undergraduate students have designed a foot mechanism that, with some minor tweaks to the walking controller, allow MABEL to exhibit natural heel-strike, rolling, and toe-off during its walking gait. Like Boston Dynamics’ PETMAN, a pair of sneakers is worn on the feet.
Previously, MABEL held the record for fast walking from October 29, 2009 through April 2010, but lost it to PETMAN. Late last year a video of MABEL became popular after it suffered a minor fall when attempting to step down from a height of 6.35cm (2.5″). Although it looked like an ugly break, the leg was repaired in about an hour. Interestingly, the robot kicked one of the wooden planks it was meant to climb and sort of stumbled, but regained its balance without relying on any programmed reflexes. After refining the control algorithm, MABEL was able to step down from a height of 8.89cm (3.5″) but unfortunately the video showing the successful run didn’t achieve the same popularity as the first one. Videos of those two experiments are tucked under the break.