Organized chaos gets robots going
Göttingen scientists develop an autonomous walking robot that flexibly switches between many different gaits by using “chaos control”.
In humans and animals, periodically recurring movements like walking or breathing are controlled by small neural circuits called “central pattern generators” (CPG). Scientists have been using this principle in the development of walking machines. To date, typically one separate CPG was needed for every gait. The robot receives information about its environment via several sensors – about whether there is an obstacle in front of it or whether it climbs a slope. Based on this information, it selects the CPG controlling the gait that is appropriate for the respective situation.
The robot developed by the Göttingen scientists now manages the same task with only one CPG that generates entirely different gaits and which can switch between these gaits in a flexible manner. This CPG is a tiny network consisting of two circuit elements. The secret of its functioning lies in the so-called “chaos control”. If uncontrolled, the CPG produces a chaotic activity pattern. This activity, however, can very easily be controlled by the sensor inputs into periodic patterns that determine the gait. Depending on the sensory input signal, different patterns – and thus different gaits – are generated.
© Steingrube, Timme, Wörgötter, Manoonpong, University of Göttingen and Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization
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