MAE Seminar: Robots that Think on their Feet - Algorithms for Rapidly Adaptive Bipedalism

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Christian Hubicki. Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Mechanical Engineering
Florida State University and the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering

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Abstract: Roboticists have long sought to build legged machines that can walk and run in our world as nimbly as animals, but this remains an ongoing controls challenge. Effective bipedal control must both reconcile the complex multibody dynamics of robots while thinking quickly how to respond and adapt to changing environments and scenarios. This seminar presents our efforts toward bipedal robot control algorithms for capturing the agility, efficiency, robustness and adaptability of biological locomotors. Our group uses a variety of optimization techniques to generate efficient bipedal gaits, stabilize walking and running gaits from disturbances and change behaviors on-the-fly. Results include human-size bipedal robots quickly catching themselves after provoked stumbles, walking efficiently in a natural heel-toe motion and seamlessly transitioning from walking to running. Our current work extends these methods to generalize locomotor behaviors as strategies that minimize risk of failure. Driven by collaborative work in animal biomechanics, we present proof-of-concept demonstrations of risk-adaptive locomotion that produce behaviors that thoughtfully balance tasks that require locomotion (e.g. gathering energy/food, delivering packages, avoiding adversaries/predators). From just a handful of examples, the risk-adaptive approach can be presented with a new task, build data-driven models of failure and rapidly adapt locomotion strategies to maximize the probability of task completion.Bio: Christian Hubicki is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Florida State University and the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering.  As director of the Optimal Robotics Laboratory, Hubicki's research specializes in bipedal locomotion, specifically optimization methods that apply to both legged robotics and biomechanics. He earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from Bucknell University, with undergraduate minors in physics and music. Hubicki earned his dual-degree doctorate in robotics and mechanical engineering at Oregon State University’s Dynamic Robotics Laboratory. He later completed his postdoctoral work in the mechanical engineering and physics departments at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Hubicki was awarded a Gilbreth Lectureship from the National Academy of Engineering "recognizing outstanding young American engineers" in 2020 and a Young Faculty Researcher grant from the Toyota Research Institute in 2021. His work has also been featured in media outlets ranging from the Science Channel's "Outrageous Acts of Science" to CBS's "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."