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MARLO vs. U-M’s Wave Field

By umcadmin

Walk this way

The recent HBO reboot of the ’70s sci-fi thriller Westworld has captivated viewers with its portrayal of a live-action “video game” populated by lifelike robots.

MARLO, the walking robot in COE, 11-16While author Michael Crichton’s original premise remains firmly in the fiction category, the science part is making great strides, at least in the Wave Field on U-M’s North Campus. In this video, watch experts in the  lab of Jessy Grizzle, the Elmer G. Gilbert Distinguished University Professor and the Jerry W. and Carol L. Levin Professor of Engineering, take their two-legged robot, MARLO, out for a walk.

MARLO is the first robot in Grizzle’s lab that actually can walk — and, as you’ll see, fall — in any direction. MARLO steps blindly without supports, sensing the changes in ground height and adjusting its gait according to terrain and speed. It draws on a library of gaits developed by PhD student Xingye Da.

In early attempts on the Wave Field in June, MARLO broke its legs traversing the small hills and briefly burst into flames when an electrical connector blew.

By the end of July, Da and his fellow students updated the gaits and algorithms to help MARLO navigate the gentler waves between the earthen moguls by integrating the controller for forward-back motion with the one for side-to-side balance. With the team beginning to break up for vacation the following week, they took one last run at the Wave Field and were astonished at MARLO’s ability to walk down one of the gullies and back.

MARLO’s feedback control algorithms could help other two-legged robots as well as powered prosthetic legs gain similar capabilities.

Westworld, here we come…