Meet Byrun – The Walking Robot

 

A new full sized dynamic humanoid under development at Engineered Arts Ltd.

At Engineered Arts, we always strive for more – more entertaining, more interesting, more capable – and more human. Enter Byrun: poised to take the next giant leap for robot-kind.

A walking robot, with a unique parallel electric-pneumatic design, making him highly energy efficient. Bi-articulate linkages in the limbs maintain angular relationships without sacrificing independent axis control. Custom built motors combine with compliant articulation to create a bipedal robot like no other.

 

Why a Walking Robot?

 

People have been asking us for a long time when we would make RoboThespian walk. From a cold, rational point of view, there seem to be very few commercial reasons to develop a full sized bipedal robot.

Assisted living and care are often put forward as applications for a walking robot. In reality, there are major technical barriers to overcome, particularly regarding safe operation around humans. Of course, there are some application areas where causing serious injury or death are not a concern. We could create a ‘Terminator’ biped. Personally, I oppose the mechanisation of death for ethical reasons. I want to build machines that make people laugh, not cry.

 

But the question doesn’t go away: ‘Can it walk? Can it walk?’ I realised that most people would love to see it. And they can, in perfect safety – at a show or public event. But just walking is not enough. It must run, jump hop and leap. To be worth its cost, this robot must perform like something never seen before. If it can do just 10% of John Travolta’s walk, Margot Fonteyn’s dance and Julia Roberts’ smile, we have a winner.

Achieving these goals is a daunting task. It requires not just engineering expertise, but radical and novel approaches to the problems of dynamic balance, actuation efficiency, and locomotion. We are creating not just an exciting piece of hardware, but one that will make a great development platform for others to build on. When Byrun takes his next step, so shall we.

– Will Jackson, Engineered Arts

Bryun Walking Robot Bipedal Humanoid Robot - Engineered Arts
Byrun Design Preview

March 2015

 

Byrun Prototype 3.  Video of leg exercises and heel to toe walking cycle.

 

September 2014

 

Below is a video that demonstrates some of the development tools we are using in the design and construction of our newest robots. We have created a comprehensive model of the new Smart Muscle using Matlab’s SimMechanics toolbox in conjunction with the System Identification toolbox. This will help us refine and tune the commands sent to the muscles in use on Byrun and RT4.

 

Our new upper body design, which will be employed on both RoboThespian 4.0 and Byrun, is close to its final assembly state. Here we see the elbow and wrist joints working together to move an older-model RT3 hand. This will eventually be replaced by a much more dynamic and dexterous RT4 hybrid hand design.

August 2014

 

The third prototype of Byrun’s legs was assembled earlier in the year.

 

 

A walking robot needs legs. Shown in the linked video is a demonstration of the compliant actuation in action. The biarticulate hip-knee linkage keeps the centre of mass in a stable location throughout the gait cycle. Series elastic elements in conjunction with force sensors provide highly sensitive compliant behaviour, even in the absence of pneumatic actuators.

 

Hardware development on Byrun’s lower body has been put on hold while the upper body is prototyped, wired and tested. However, simulation of the system dynamics and gait and stability algorithms has continued.

 

Shown below are images from Maple simulations of the prototype 3 leg design, static and in mid-hop.

Bryun Walking Robot Bipedal Humanoid Robot - Engineered Arts
Bryun Walking Robot Bipedal Humanoid Robot - Engineered Arts

We have also tackled a redesign of the RT4/Byrun neck mechanism, necessary in order to fit the head to the new upper body. This new approach will incorporate force control and compliant spring elements, meaning RT4, Byrun and Socibot/Socibot-Mini can now have responsive heads that react to touch, and can be physically directed. The University of Central Florida will be one of the first institutions to receive a robot using the new compliant neck design.

February 2014

Bryun Walking Robot Bipedal Humanoid Robot - Engineered Arts

We have begun the construction of the first upper body prototype. A combination of SEAs in parallel with pneumatic muscles create a fast, strong and accurate shoulder joint, with coupled roll and pitch. The current operating window of the end effectors is optimized for manipulation in a frontal region at roughly waist-to-chest height, able to self-contact the face and upper torso. But in addition, we must also consider how the upper limbs will be used to balance the robot while walking, ensuring greater stability.

We are now on the third prototype leg design and are finalising the hip and lower abdomen arrangements. Fitting all the necessary actuation components into a human-scale torso is no easy task!

Bryun Walking Robot Bipedal Humanoid Robot - Engineered Arts
Bryun Walking Robot Bipedal Humanoid Robot - Engineered Arts
Bryun Walking Robot Bipedal Humanoid Robot - Engineered Arts
Bryun Walking Robot Bipedal Humanoid Robot - Engineered Arts