Evolutionary robotics is a branch of artificial intelligence concerned with the automatic generation of autonomous robots. Usually the form of the robot is predefined and various computational techniques are used to control the machine's behaviour. One aspect is the spontaneous generation of walking in legged robots and this can be used to investigate the mechanical requirements for efficient walking in bipeds. This paper demonstrates a bipedal simulator that spontaneously generates walking and running gaits. The model can be customized to represent a range of hominoid morphologies and used to predict performance parameters such as preferred speed and metabolic energy cost. Because it does not require any motion capture data it is particularly suitable for investigating locomotion in fossil animals. The predictions for modern humans are highly accurate in terms of energy cost for a given speed and thus the values predicted for other bipeds are likely to be good estimates. To illustrate this the cost of transport is calculated for Australopithecus afarensis. The model allows the degree of maximum extension at the knee to be varied causing the model to adopt walking gaits varying from chimpanzee-like to human-like. The energy costs associated with these gait choices can thus be calculated and this information used to evaluate possible locomotor strategies in early hominids.
- biomechanics; bipedalism; evolutionary computing; locomotion