Researchers Helping Robots Learn to Avoid ‘Faceplant’ Falls

Published by , October 19, 2015 11:10 am

(i-programmer) — “Faceplants” are the most damaging falls to humans — as well as to robots — because you’re planting your face into the ground as a means of breaking your fall, which usually also breaks the face. Researchers at Georgia Tech are working on techniques that can be used by humanoid robots to allow them to fall more safely, which might protect them enough to actually be able to get up again. Ph.D. graduate Sehoon Ha and Professor Karen Liu have developed an algorithm that tells a robot how to react to a wide variety of falls – from a single step to recover from a gentle nudge to a rolling motion that breaks a high-speed fall.

The study built on previous research in which Liu studied cats and athletes and showed that one of the most important factors in a fall is the angle of the landing. It relied on the idea that a well-designed robot has the “brain” to compute a softer landing, but it hadn’t yet optimized the sequence of motions that take place during a fall. The new algorithm was designed to take into account the hardware constraints and the capabilities of the robot.

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