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IHMC Teaches Atlas to Walk Like a Human

Humans walk with straight legs and most robots don’t, but IHMC is teaching Atlas to do better

Humanoid robots have a very distinctive walk. Knees bent, torso as stationary as possible. Even Boston Dynamics’ own Atlas uses this crouching sort of squat-walk to get around, because those perpetually bent legs are how it keeps from falling over. This sort of gait is so common with humanoid robots that it’s become the “normal” robot gait, but it’s also not at all the way that humans walk. We walk with straight legs, locking our knees with each stride, because it’s much easier to support our weight that way. You can try it for yourself: that bent knee “bipedal robot” walk gets tiring to keep up, because your leg muscles always have to be engaged. 

At IHMC, roboticists are busy solving this problem by teaching Atlas to walk more like we do. In addition to making humanoid robots more efficient, a more natural walking gait could make them more versatile as well, able to handle more rugged terrain that robots that spend all of their time in a squat.