Walkers in Software

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knees bend backwards, it is familiar to the designer. One leg at a time can be built, tested, and debugged and then both attached to a simple plate for a chassis.
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The third general technique for walking with a legged robot is frame walking. Frame walking relies on the robot having two major sections, each with their own set of legs, both sections statically stable. Walking is accomplished by raising the legs of one frame, traversing that frame forward relative to the frame whose legs are still on the ground, and then setting the legs down. The other frame s legs are then raised and traversed forward. The coupling between the two frames usually has a second rotating DOF to facilitate turning, rather than by adding a rotation in each leg. Figure 7-11 shows a mechanism for traversing and turning the two parts of the body. In nature, an inchworm uses a form of frame walking. The two frames are the front and back sections of the worm. The coupling is the leg-less section in between. In the case of the inchworm, the coupling has many degrees of freedom, but two is all that is required if the legs each have their own ability to move up and down. Unfortunately for robot designers, the inchworm also has the ability to grasp with its claw-
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Figure 7-11 Mechanism for frame traversing and rotating
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Figure 7-12 Traversing/rotating frame eight-leg frame walker with single-DOF legs
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Figure 7-13 Eight-leg frame walker with two-DOF legs
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Walkers
like feet, making it quasi-statically stable. Figure 7-12 shows an implementation of the traversing/rotating frame with simple one-DOF legs. This layout has 10 DOF. Figure 7-13 removes the rotating joint, which forces placing a second joint in each leg to be able to turn. The actuator count goes up to 17 with this layout. The advantage of having the second joint in each leg is the ability to place each leg in the most optimum point to maintain traction and stability. Still, 17 actuators is a lot to control and maintain. A six-leg tripod-gait frame walker could, however, have just three degrees of freedom, all in one joint between the two frames. This joint would have a linear motion for traversing, a rotary motion for steering, and a vertical motion to lift one frame and then the other. Mobility would suffer with such a simple platform because the robot would lack the ability to stand level on uneven terrain. Perhaps the best is a six-leg tripodgait frame walker with one linear DOF in each leg and two in the coupling, bringing the total DOF to eight. Figure 7-14 shows just such a layout, perhaps the best walking layout to start with if designing a walking robot.
Figure 7-14 Six-legged tripod-frame walker with single-DOF legs
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Walkers
ROLLER-WALKERS
A special category of walkers is actually a hybrid system that uses both legs and wheels. Some of these types have the wheels mounted on fixed legs; others have the wheels mounted on legs that have one or two degrees of freedom. There doesn t seem to be any widely accepted term for these hybrids, but perhaps roller walkers will suffice. A commercially available roller walker has one leg with a wheel on its end, and two jointed legs with no wheels, each with three DOF. The machine is a logging machine that can stand level even on very steep slopes. Although this machine looks ungainly with its long legs with a wheel on one of them, it is quite capable. Because of its slow traverse speed, it is transported to a job sight on the back of a special truck. Wheels on legs can be combined to form many varieties of roller walkers. Certain terrain types may be more easily traversed with this unusual mobility system. The concept is gaining wider appeal as it becomes apparent a hybrid system can combine the better qualities of wheeled and legged robots. If contemplating designing a roller walker, it may be more effective to think of the mobility system as a wheeled vehicle with the wheels mounted on jointed appendages rather than a walking vehicle with wheels. The biggest limitation of walkers is still top speed. This limitation is easily overcome by wheels. A big limitation of a wheeled vehicle is getting over obstacles that are higher than the wheels. The ability to raise a wheel, or reconfigure the vehicle s geometry to allow a wheel to easily drive up a high object, reduces this limitation. There are several researchers working on roller walkers. There are no figures included here, but the reader is urged to investigate these web sites: http://mozu.mes.titech.ac.jp/ http://www.aist.go.jp/MEL/mainlab/rob/rob08e.html
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