Human-made mobility platforms excel on paved roads, but off road they often get stuck in the dirt. It has been argued that we need legged mobility platforms to negotiate irregular terrain. The development of such legged mobility platforms has been in process for some decades, and only recently have these efforts led to platforms with acceptable performance [Buehler et al., 2000; Cham et al., 2001]. There appears to be something inherently difficult about legged locomotion, even though biological creatures make it seem so simple. Finding out how this feat is accomplished could greatly benefit the development of legged mobility platforms.
Biomechanics is the discipline intended to reveal the mechanisms of animal locomotion. Although we have gained much insight into how animals move and how performance is determined by muscle properties and central nervous control, very little of this knowledge has been transferred to legged mobility platforms with extraordinary performance. This may be in part because biomechanics studies how nature does what engineers have shown to be possible [Vogel, 2001]. In recent years it has become clear that if we want a human-made mobility platforms to move like its biological counterpart, we need to integrate a wide range of disciplines (biomechanics, neurosciences, computational modeling, “biomaterials,” and design) into a new discipline called biomimetics. This discipline involves abstracting principles from nature and offering biological inspiration to engineers.
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