RHex: A Biologically Inspired Hexapod Runner

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RHex is an untethered, compliant leg hexapod robot that travels at better than one body length per second over terrain few other robots can negotiate at all. Inspired by biomechanics insights into arthropod locomotion, RHex uses a clock excited alternating tripod gait to walk and run in a highly maneuverable and robust manner. We present empirical data establishing that RHex exhibits a dynamical (“bouncing”) gait—its mass center moves in a manner well approximated by trajectories from a Spring Loaded Inverted Pendulum (SLIP)—characteristic of a large and diverse group of running animals, when its central clock, body mass, and leg stiffnesses are appropriately tuned. The SLIP template can function as a useful control guide in developing more complex autonomous locomotion behaviors such as registration via visual servoing, local exploration via visual odometry, obstacle avoidance, and, eventually, global mapping and localization.

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