Technology

Modern Swinger

By Fenella SaundersJul 1, 2000 12:00 AM

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In the robotics laboratory at Japan's Nagoya University, a strange machine swings from bar to bar like a gibbon. Toshio Fukuda and Jun Nakanishi, along with Dan Koditschek at the University of Michigan, recognized that the primate's arm-to-arm movement is a very complex form of locomotion and set out to build a robot that could master it. They demonstrated that a simple double joint—essentially a pendulum linked to another pendulum—could perform the key swinging motion. Then the Nagoya group built the Brachiator III, which has legs to generate initial momentum and a computer vision system to figure out where to place its handlike grippers. Nakanishi believes that lessons learned from building the swinging robots will aid the design of future walking, hopping, or jumping automatons.

Toshio Fukuda/Nagoya University

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