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Locomotion Analysis and Control of a Miniature Bipedal Robot


From the dawn of time humans have been trying to recreate themselves with the technology of each age. What is impressive about humans is their capabilities of navigating the world and manipulating the world around them. It is these abilities that we wish to replicate in machines which can potentially overturn our daily lives. The recent advancements of robotics allow us to get closer than ever before to this realm of fantasy. For decades we have seen the incredible performance of automation robots in the factories, but we still have yet to see humanoid robots be utilized to aid humans in the everyday world. This is due in large part to the fact that the approaches to effectively navigating these two environments are different. The automation robots operate in the specifically structured environments. They are usually fully actuated with their bases being fixed, which grants them full control authority at all times. Simple control strategies are adequate under these conditions. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the humanoid robots in the real world.

Significantly faster development in quadruped robots than humanoid robots has been witnessed as recently there has been a large surge in the number of quadruped robots available for commercial use. Compared to quadruped robots, humanoid robots are typically more mechanically complex and intrinsically unstable. This poses two critical challenges in the study of humanoid robots. First, accessibility to the physical hardware is limited as either it takes too much effort to develop a humanoid robot platform independently, or the commercially available ones, if any, are too expensive to afford. Second, as the humanoid robot system is considerably more challenging than the quadruped robot system, more advanced and efficient control algorithms are essential, especially when it comes to robust bipedal locomotion which is the fundamental capability of humanoid robots.

This dissertation aims at addressing some of the problems in these challenges. First, a next-generation miniature bipedal robot with proprioceptive actuation capable of dynamic behaviors is being under development. The robot is named BRUCE – Bipedal Robot Unit with Compliance Enhanced. The BRUCE robot is desired to serve as an accessible and reliable humanoid robot platform for general research purposes. It is expected to become open-source with an affordable price for the robotics community in the near future. Second, a state-of-the-art dynamic bipedal locomotion control framework is being studied. The approach is general and versatile as it is able to achieve a strong robustness of stabilizing a wide range of dynamic bipedal locomotion gaits including walking, running, and hopping. The effectiveness of the locomotion control framework was validated on the BRUCE robot both in simulation and with physical hardware.

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