Department of Mechanical Engineering
"Biomimetic locomotion" is the movement of robotic mechanisms in ways
analogous to the patterns of movement found in nature. Practically
it is movement that does not rely upon wheels, jets, thrusters, or
Biomimetic locomotion is typically generated by a coupling of periodic
internal body deformations to an external constraint.
A significant body of research has been developed in the area of robotic
locomotion. Prior studies have often focused either on a particular set
assumptions (such as quasi-static motion) or a particular robot
(such as a biped or quadruped). To date there exists no unifying
for analyzing or controlling robotic locomotion. Ultimately, we seek a
"mechanics theory" and a "control theory" for robotic locomotion which
rigorous and uniformly applicable to a broad class of locomotory
This talk summarizes some recent work on the development of unifying
principles for a broad class of locomotion problems.
In order to establish notation and key ideas, the talk will begin with a
review of the basic mechanics underlying biomimetic locomotion. In
particular, ideas from the geometric mechanics literature, such as
fiber bundles and their associated connections, will be stressed.
A biomimetic locomotion mechanism is "controllable" if there exists an
admissible set of controls which drives the system from its current
configuration to any nearby configuration. Controllability is a key
that must be addressed by any comprehensive theory of biomimetic
engineering. Unfortunately, standard controllability methods from
control theory, such as Chow's theorem, are not well suited to the
biomimetic locomotors. Extensions to controllability theory that are
adapted to biomimetic locomotion systems will be reviewed.
While controllability is a key issue in the design and analysis of
locomotion systems, trajectory generation is a primary practical problem
the deployment of complex biomimetic locomotors. Using the new
controllability framework, the second part of the
talk will describe trajectory generation methods.