U.S. experts from the University of Arizona have developed what they say the most biologically-accurate robotic legs to date.
They said the work could help understanding of how babies learn to walk and also make advances in spinal-injury treatment. The artificial legs not only mimic the walking movement of human beings, they also reproduce the actions taking place in our nervous system that allows us to walk.
The researchers had created a version of the message system, that generates the rhythmic muscle signals that control walking on these robotic legs. The system, known as the central pattern generator (CPG), generates rhythmic muscle signals in the lumbar region of the spinal cord.
The CPG produces and controls, these signals by gathering information from different parts of the body involved in walking. This is what allows people to walk without thinking about it.
The University of Arizona team suggests babies start off with this simplistic set-up, and then over time develop a more complex walking pattern.
Writing in the Journal of Neural Engineering , the team says: "This robot represents a complete physical, or 'neurorobotic' model of the system, demonstrating the usefulness of this type of robotics research for investigating the neuropsychological processes underlying walking in humans and animals".