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Safe Falling Strategies For Humanoid Robots

Ambarish Goswami and Seung-kook Yun, from the Honda Research Institute USA, will be presenting some work at IROS 2011 that could make humanoid robots like ASIMO safer for the real world.  Although bipedal robots are built to stand up, it seems inevitable that they will trip up or fall over occasionally (just as people do).  In the past, researchers at SONY and AIST have worked on falling strategies that reduce the risk of damaging the robot itself (QRIO and HRP-2P, respectively) by bending the knees.

The work being done at the Honda Research Institute is a bit more human-centric.  While they have recently looked into ways to make ASIMO fall onto its battery backpack to avoid damaging its comparably fragile arms and legs, they’ve also worked on making the robot fall in specific directions.  By offsetting the robot’s balance by lifting a leg or moving its arms, it can effectively fall in a chosen direction to avoid landing on objects or living things it would otherwise smash.

At IROS 2011 they’ll be showing simulations on push recovery (8:30 Thursday morning).  Assuming the robot is knocked off balance by external forces (which may include bratty kids shoving the robot), taking a recovery step or two might prevent a catastrophic fall.  This work goes back to 2006, when they did push recovery simulations on a simplified biped robot (the new stuff likely involves simulations of ASIMO).  Sadly, as with many presentations being made at IROS 2011, the paper and videos of their experiments haven’t been made public yet.  We’ll keep a look out for them if and when they do, but in the mean time you can enjoy their earlier simulations of safe falling strategies.

Video:

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[source: Ambarish Goswami homepage]

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