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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Replicating Dinosaur Movements Through Robotics |Robo Dev - Robotics Business Review

Editor’s note: This article, with the original headline “A fossil as a friend”, originally appeared in driven: The maxon motor magazine.

Combining fossils with robotics helps researchers understand the evolution of land vertebrates, explains Kamilo Melo, studied electrical and mechanical engineering obtaining a Ph.D. in robotics.

Kamilo Melo has a BSc in Electronics (2004), MSc in Mechanics (2005) and PhD in Robotics (2013). His research at the Biorobotics Laboratory consists in the developement of biologically Infomed robots. His efforts are aimed to the understanding of animal locomotion and use of such principles for the design of Bio-robots and components for its deployment in disaster response missions. 
Photo: EPFL Lausanne, 19.02.2019 © Fred Merz | Lundi13
Making a legged robot walk is not as simple as it looks. Coordinating the motion of all its joints to achieve smooth motions, close to those of real animals, requires advanced engineering and careful observation of moving animals. But what if we don’t exactly know how the animal looks or moves, as it has been extinct for 300 million years?

This is the story of Orobates pabsti, an early tetrapod that lived millions of years before the dinosaurs existed. Its fossilized bones were recovered in what today is Germany in 2004. The excellent state of preservation of its fossilized bones, nearly complete and articulated, was complemented with fossilized footprints, also found in the region. This helped engineers like me in the Biorobotics laboratory of EPFL (working with Tomislav Horvat and Auke Ijspeert) and a great team of biologists (led by John Nyakatura at the Humboldt University of Berlin) to reconstruct its locomotion using a robot.

But why is the locomotion of Orobates important?...

Field test in Africa
Testing with the robot was also a great experience. It looked alive. To control this machine, it was necessary to solve inverse kinematics and dynamics problems, to coordinate the motion of the legs and the spine. To achieve smooth locomotion, the robot’s on-board computer sends commands to the motors at rates around 100 times per second. The actuators used are driven by a powerful and efficient maxon DC motor. We used 28 actuators, five per leg and eight in the spine. Few times a robot that complex and close to a real animal has been controlled to execute all these diverse motions. 


Source: Robotics Business Review