Simulation tool lets humanoid robot run and jump

Modelling and simulation software from Canadian firm MapleSoft is playing a critical role in the design and modelling of RoboThespian: a next generation, full size humanoid dynamic robot that can walk, run, jump and sing.

UK firm Engineered Arts, which designs and produces the robots, used the company's MapleSim tool to design a biologically analogous humanoid robot leg that integrates a novel actuator for studying its static and dynamic stability. The design, said to be comparable to the human musculoskeletal system, is characterised by high non-linearity and human-like compliance. A MapleSim model of the leg and actuators was built to verify the relationship between actuators under pressure, their contraction and the equivalent joint angles in static states. MapleSim's custom component template was used extensively to model the robot's pneumatic actuators. The leg model was created by a chain of multi-body components and the compliant foot was modelled with real time feedback from the 3D view. Will Jackson, director of Engineered Arts, said: "The capacity to simplify, solve and interact directly with differential equations was a big enabler in modelling and analysing physical interactions of the robot components. "The complex interaction between interdependent variables could be relatively easily modelled because of MapleSim's system level approach to modelling." Jackson and his team aim to have a full body MapleSim model of the next generation RoboThespian by early 2013 and a working prototype later in the year.