Developing a two-legged robot capable of walking and running like a human is a key goal for robotics researchers. In 2011, University of Michigan Professor Jessy Grizzle and a small team of Ph.D. students advanced toward that goal with MABEL, a bipedal robot that could run a nine-minute mile and regain its balance after negotiating an eight-inch step.
While MABEL required a support boom for lateral stability, its successor, MARLO, can move freely in three dimensions, complicating the control design challenge. Nevertheless, Professor Grizzle and students Brian Buss and Brent Griffin have developed real-time control systems that take MARLO where MABEL was unable to go—outdoors and away from the lab. The team accelerated development by using Model-Based Design.
“With Model-Based Design we can develop controllers that work not just on one robot, but on an entire series,” says Grizzle. “The control engineers coming into my group already know MATLAB. Instead of chasing pointers around in C code, they build on that knowledge with Simulink and Simulink Real-Time and move quickly from verifying a theory in simulation to implementing it on a real-time system.”