Published On: Thu, Jan 27th, 2011

Teaching Baby-Robots How To Walk

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You don’t need to be a parent to know there’s a learning curve for humans to understand how to stand up and walk. It’s simple; we start sliding flat on our bellies, develop this to expert crawling then we stand and walk. It’s one of the planet’s SOP’s that goes with the human design. Of course there are many examples in our cultural history where ‘we’ tried to modify this procedure, they’ve all failed; if you want to walk, you go belly first, crawl next and then rise; do not bind the feet either!

What’s fascinating — and disturbing too — is that [PDF] robot engineers who have studied human motions to the detail never grasped this simple sequence apparently.

Following robot developments for quite some years, and spending an awful lot of money purchasing the next ‘robot’, I’ve always complained about my soulless friends walking like idiots. The answer always was (and is); “Yes we know, but you have to understand that walking naturally is very, very complex”.

Well, that bullying intellectual answer has gone to the shredder. The true answer is and always should have been; “Yes we know they walk odd, but that’s because we tried to make them stand and walk from the very day they were born..” “….” “blah blah” “Sorry!”

Sorry? But that is not going to work. You’ve got to go through the belly, crawl, rise thing. You can’t burst into life, jump on your feet and walk away. It isn’t like that. Not with us humans. You’ll have to do better.

I’m sure you’ll know by now what the ground breaking next gen answer to that is. Yep; belly, crawl, stand -> walk robot.

Right! A big *sigh* BUT also a devastating example that we have to keep promoting a convergence between (science) disciplines. We can’t have our brightest building robots without them understanding human behavior and nature. Creation is teamwork. Life is a multi-disciplinary adventure.

Nevertheless watch the Baby Robot – vid, if only because I’d be interested in your opinion whether the guy doing the voice-over is human or robot.

In the vid robotics researcher Josh Bongard and his team performed a computer simulation experiment which involved baby robots or “Bot-tots” that learned new things like walking to a target. Yes, and remember this is ground breaking: belly, crawl, stand.

Oh yeah, up your audio. The voice-over guy is not involved with this robot project.




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- As a creative strategist I work on complex (digital) communications issues for international industry leading companies, organizations and agencies. I'm interested in how technology integrates with (and influences) traditional marketing, media, human behavior, society and culture.

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