He doesn't have any ankles either. No, my puppy isn't handicapped. He was designed that way. He's a Robopet.
Sometimes we get so entranced by fascinating robotic technology that we completely overlook the obvious. For example, my amazing Robopet walks, jumps, sits up and begs, and sometimes takes a nose dive off the table top. Is it any wonder that I didn't notice his lack of knees, ankles, and other joints?
Instead of knees, ankles, and hip joints, my Robopet has linkage mechanisms that are, for the most part, planar. Each leg can only move backward or forward in its defined plane, yet the robot makes some really amazing movements. There it is, right in front of me. As clear as the nose on my face. As plain as day - whatever that means. . . .
So, rather than sit there with our jaw dropped in amazement, looking more than a little dumb-struck, we decided to take our little robot puppy into the lab and capture some of his walking gaits on video. We thought this would help, especially since the video clips would allow us to step him through each move on a frame by frame basis.
Some initial observations:
- Like the earlier Robosapien, our Robopet takes maximum advantage from rocking his body back and forth. The tilting action - which has been compared to the walk of a drunken sailor by others - allows it to lift one foot off the ground and move it forward far enough to simulate a stepping motion.
- Walking backwards is basically a reversal of the forward sequence.
- Turning is accomplished by making long movements with one set of legs and short movements with the other set. This results in a long curving turn rather than any abrupt rotation. The original Robosapien had the same type of turning strategy, but because it only had two legs it could almost turn in place while the Robopet has to be moving forward or backward to generate a turn.
- The soles of the feet seem to play a significant role in the Robopet's walk.
Needless to say, we plan to investigate this much further. . . .