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Anthropomorphic dreams of robots have pervaded fact and fiction in robotics ever since the idea of a machine to do our work was first conceived. Most work on mobile robots has centered around wheeled or tracked vehicles, even when other functions are animal-like. Making machines walk on articulated legs has been an independent endeavor trailing behind the development of conventional wheeled vehicles. Gradually, more success has been made in this area and numerous walking machines exist. In this paper, based on a talk given to the 1995 International Walking Machine Decathlon in Fort Collins, Colorado, the evolution of walking in nature is examined as a useful and interesting precursor to studies on man made devices. The objective is to see what has been done before, why and to see if there are any lessons to be learned. Efficient, flexible, two legged walking and associated gaits have evolved independently several times, sometimes with dead ends. This is interesting in its own right and the emphasis in this paper is therefore on two legged walking in dinosaurs, birds, and man. Finally, a solution in the form of a simple bipedal robot prototype will be demonstrated at the end of the seminar.
Allan Branch is President and CEO of Denning Mobile Robotics, Inc. doing business as Denning Branch International Robotics), in the USA and Managing Director since 1979 of Branch and Associates Pty Ltd. in Australia, two of the world's best known and most successful mobile robot companies. His companies design and manufacture intelligent mobile robots for industrial applications such as security, floor cleaning, materials handling, education, research, television and agriculture. He was educated at the University of Tasmania and in 1988/89 spent a year as visiting Scientist at Carnegie Mellon University Univesity's prestigious Robotics Institute. His specialty is in autonomous guidance systems at practical cost and his goal is to help produce robots that make life better for mankind. Recent activities include the walking robot for Malaysian rubber plantations and household floorcleaning robots for General Electric and Moulinex. He has been selling robots to Japan for many years, a little like selling ice to the Eskimos. A copy of his full resume is available upon request to: email@example.com