A Bipedal Robot Gets Its Swagger On

MARLO takes a stroll across the Wave Field for the first time

She’s trained her whole life for this moment: MARLO recently stomped and stumbled her way through a new milestone at University of Michigan’s Wave Field.

The field — an art installation turned robot testing ground — offers new challenges for the bipedal robot’s lateral and forward balance, because of its uneven terrain.

MARLO was constructed in 2012, and has been practicing her 15 programmed gaits on indoor tracks in preparation for this moment.

To get her out in the undulating knolls, the team upgraded MARLO’s battery package and built a gantry to suspend her between a bar that two people could hold on both ends.

“I’m okay! I’m fine I’m fu-!” University of Michigan

“The robot has no feeling in her tiny feet, but she senses the angles of her joints — for instance, her knee angles, hip angles and the rotation angle of her torso,” project lead and University of Michigan professor Jessy Grizzle told Gizmag. “It’s like walking blindfolded and on stilts.”

The algorithms MARLO uses will help other types of robotics in development. Robert Gregg, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and bioengineering at the University of Texas-Dallas, adapted the algorithm to a prosthetic leg.

When a real person used the prosthesis on a treadmill, he walked naturally, according to the university’s news. It may not look graceful on the Wave Field, but to roboticist and prothetic engineers, MARLO’s swagger is a beautiful sight.

She wears a women’s size 7 SKIDS tennis shoes, in case you’re looking for a congratulations gift.