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RI Seminar: Andrew Biewener
Animal models for robotic design: neuromuscular and biomechanical studies of terrestrial and aerial locomotion

Andrew Biewener
Harvard University

November 02, 2012

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Animals move with economy and speed. Most animals are also robustly maneuverable and stable. Studies of terrestrial legged locomotion in running avian bipeds and mammalian quadrupeds reveal neuromuscular and biomechanical capabilities for stability and economy of movement. Mechanical properties of muscles, as actuators, provide intrinsic stabilization in addition to effective power generation. Perturbation studies of running animals indicate that passive-dynamics likely underlie stabilization, supplemented by neuromuscular feedback control. Passive mechanisms enable a rapid stabilization response until slower neural feedback mechanisms can be implemented. Studies of quadrupedal animals show how center of mass moments are low during trotting and controlled during galloping, influencing the design of quadrupedal robots, such as BigDogTM. Recent work on bird flight through artificial forests also shows how birds successfully navigate cluttered aerial environments. Studies of 3D maneuvering, obstacle avoidance and flight path trajectory selection, in relation to head/eye vision sensing, are helping to guide models for guidance control of UAVs that must navigate cluttered environments.

Additional Information

Host: Metin Sitti and Hartmut Geyer

Appointments: Stephanie Matvey

Speaker Biography

Andrew A. Biewener received his BS degree in Zoology from Duke University, NC, USA in 1974 and his MA and PhD in Biology from Harvard University, MA, USA in 1982. His academic appointments include being an Instructor (1982-84), Assistant Professor (1984-90), and Professor (1990-1998) at the University of Chicago, where he also served as Chair of the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy from 1996-98. He was then appointed Charles P. Lyman Professor in Biology at Harvard University in 1998 and is the Director of the Concord Field Station. He holds both of these appointments at present. He also served as Chair of the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from 2001 to 2010 and was President of the American Society of Biomechanics in 2001–2002. In addition to his academic appointments, Biewener is currently Deputy Editor-in-Chief with The Journal of Experimental Biology and has served on the Editorial Boards of Biological Letters, Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, Journal of Experimental Zoology, and Journal of Morphology. Biewener has served as an ad hoc member and is now a regular member of the NIH Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation Sciences (MRS) study section, in addition to having served on several NSF grant panels. Biewener’s laboratory currently focuses on the biomechanics and neuromechanical control of terrestrial and aerial locomotion of vertebrate animals, with relevance to gait rehabilitation and biorobotics, having previously studied skeletal mechanics and remodeling. He has published over 130 primary research papers, has trained 14 PhDs and 15 post-doctoral fellows.