Energy expenditure of a biped walking robot: Instantaneous and degree-of-freedom-based instrumentation with human gait implications

Dustyn Roberts, Joseph Quacinella, Joo H. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


SUMMARY Energy expenditure (EE) is an important criterion for design and control of biped walking robots. However, the cause-effect analyses enabled by total EE, which is lumped over a time duration and all system degrees-of-freedom (DOFs), are limited. In this study, robotic gait energetics is evaluated through a DOF-based instrumentation system designed for instantaneous evaluation of bidirectional current and applied voltage at each joint actuator. The instrumentation system includes a dual-module arrangement of buffers and attenuators, and accommodates and synchronizes the voltage and current measurements from multiple actuators. For illustrative purposes, this system is implemented at each DC servomotor in a biped robot, DARwIn-OP, to analyze the electrical EE rates for walking at various speeds. In addition, a DOF-based model of instantaneous human EE rate is employed to enable quantitative characterization of robotic walking EE relative to that of humans. The robot's instantaneous lower-body EE rates are consistent with its periodic walking cycle, and their relative trends between single and double support phases are analogous to those of humans. The robotic cost of transport (COT) curve as a function of normalized speed is also consistent with the human COT in terms of its convexity. Conversely, the contrasting distributions of EE throughout the robot and human DOFs and the robotic COT curve's considerably larger magnitudes, smaller speed ranges, and higher sensitivity to speed illustrate the energetic consequences of stable but inefficient static walking in the biped robot relative to the more efficient dynamic walking of humans. These energetic characteristics enable the identification of the joints and gait cycle phases associated with inefficiency in biped robotic gait, and reflect the noticeable differences in the system parameters (rigid and flat versus segmented feet) and gait control strategies (bent versus straight knees, instants of peak ankle actuator torques, static versus dynamic balance stability). The proposed general instrumentation provides a quantitative approach to benchmarking human gait as well as general guidelines for the development of energy-efficient walking robots.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1054-1071
Number of pages18
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • Bidirectional current and voltage
  • Biped walking robot
  • Cost of transport (COT)
  • Degree of freedom (DOF)
  • Instantaneous energy expenditure
  • Instrumentation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • General Mathematics
  • Computer Science Applications


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