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Frontiers in Neurobotics

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Artificial neural networks, Locomotion -- Computer simulation


Animals dynamically adapt to varying terrain and small perturbations with remarkable ease. These adaptations arise from complex interactions between the environment and biomechanical and neural components of the animal’s body and nervous system. Research into mammalian locomotion has resulted in several neural and neuro-mechanical models, some of which have been tested in simulation, but few “synthetic nervous systems” have been implemented in physical hardware models of animal systems. One reason is that the implementation into a physical system is not straightforward. For example, it is difficult to make robotic actuators and sensors that model those in the animal. Therefore, even if the sensorimotor circuits were known in great detail, those parameters would not be applicable and new parameter values must be found for the network in the robotic model of the animal. This manuscript demonstrates an automatic method for setting parameter values in a synthetic nervous system composed of non-spiking leaky integrator neuron models. This method works by first using a model of the system to determine required motor neuron activations to produce stable walking. Parameters in the neural system are then tuned systematically such that it produces similar activations to the desired pattern determined using expected sensory feedback. We demonstrate that the developed method successfully produces adaptive locomotion in the rear legs of a dog-like robot actuated by artificial muscles. Furthermore, the results support the validity of current models of mammalian locomotion. This research will serve as a basis for testing more complex locomotion controllers and for testing specific sensory pathways and biomechanical designs. Additionally, the developed method can be used to automatically adapt the neural controller for different mechanical designs such that it could be used to control different robotic systems.


Copyright © 2017 Hunt, Szczecinski and Quinn. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.



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