Posted by: robotnews | April 2, 2007

bipedal robot for bipedal humans

Lo and behold, while we are playing with soccer robots on wheels, the students in Waseda University have built a 2 foot tall bipedal robot. It uses a combination of hydraulics and algorithms to stroll along gracefully. The WL-16IV’s (Waseda-Leg Number 16 Refinement Four) main characteristic is that it is able to climb stairs. A robot like this is definitely not rehabilitative, because it will just encourage humans to be lazier (if there is such a word), but it is definitely assistive. Imagine this allow wheel bounded patients to be able to negotiate stairs or other uneven terrain, something that wheels are just not able to accomplish. Similarly, imagine the technology on balancing on bipedal with hydraulics being used on other areas. Anyone watched Aliens 2? Remember the scene which Ripley was battling the alien with a bipedal machine robot used for carrying heavy and bulky crates? I guess WL-16IV is the grand dad of Ripley’s robot. Currently, I would think that the most advanced bipedal robot is Honda’s Asimo. What differentiate WL-16IV from Asimo is that WL-16IV uses hydraulics rather than electric motors, this enable it to handle heavy loads, such as the person sitting on top of it. Well, ten years ago, I would say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’, but here in 2007, its ‘a video paints a thousand pictures’. Shaw Ray U036444H.


edit: incase some of u not sure which robot in the movie Aliens 2 i was talking about. here i found a picture of it. just folllow the link.



  1. Is this bipedal robot constraint by the wire? If that is so then it would not be useful for people who are wheelbound. If it is battery operated, how long would the battery lasts? Else if it requires the user to exert strength, would it cause tiredness easily? Hope that you can clarify my doubts. Thank you.

    Lai Sing Zie

  2. Though I have the same questions as Sing Zie. But after watching the videos, I must applaud the dynamics design incorporated in the WL-16IV. To be able to negiotiate staircases is not an easy task for a robot itself. But to be able to carry a human and carefully balancing the human sitting on top of it is pretty amazing. Especially so as I notice its shifting of its center of gravity takes after the way we walk so well!

    Ng Zhihong

  3. Thanks for the interest. U are correct, with the wires, the robot will not be able to travel very far since it is limited by its wires. But i feel that since it is able to carry the weight of a human, it is able to carry lots of batteries then. Maybe the engineers can include a power plug so that the patients can recharge its batteries anywhere. u know, like one of those electric cars.

    I have a neighbour who is wheelchair bound. He has one of those electric wheelchair that has a motor installed with it. He goes out in the afternoon with the wheel chair and comes home late at night with the wheel chair. So i guess, one day’s use is okay.

    about user exert strength? i think the user is just sitting on the robot and controlling it using a joystick.

    I was thinking that why the animals in nature usually move about using some kind of legs and feet structure. Seldom u see animals that roll around. Maybe being bipedal and quadpedal are the easiest means of travelling around i guess.

    Shaw Ray

  4. oh ya. sorry, i think i misunderstand when u asked that whether or not users will be tired easily. in the movie, the robot sort of mimics ur arms and leg movement. it has sensors that sense that u want to raise ur feet, it will then raise the robot’s feet. the user wont feel a thing at all, all the work is being done by the robot. just imagine that u are going through a motion which requires u to carry a heavy box, but for u there is no box. however, for the robot, it will follow ur movement and carry the heavy box for u.

    here comes the question of feedback? if the user cannot have feedback, how will the user know that it has carried the box. for example, us humans have the sense of touch, when we hold onto a glass, we know how much pressure we are exerting on the glass, thus we will apply just enough force to hold the glass but not break it. if now we have a robot that mimics our actions of holding a glass, we do not have the feedback of the amount of pressure being applied onto the glass, thus the robotic arm might break the glass. thus some how, we must have some sort of feedback to us humans that the correct amount of pressure is being applied. there are many ways of implementing this feedback, it all depends on the preference and usage.

    Shaw Ray

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