The Robotics Institute

RI | Seminar | May 6

Robotics Institute Seminar, May 6
Time and Place | Seminar Abstract | Speaker Biography | Speaker Appointments

Biomechanics of Human Walking: Lessons from Biology, Applications to Robotics

Art Kuo

Associate Professor

University of Michigan



Time and Place

Mauldin Auditorium (NSH 1305)
Refreshments 3:15 pm
Talk 3:30 pm




What makes bipedal walking a suitable gait for humans? Many biomechanical features of the body favor walking. Muscles produce high power for their mass, and yet can allow the joints to rotate freely with little resistance. The legs themselves have inertial properties that allow them to produce much of the walking motion passively. Moreover, much of the walking motion is stable, simplifying the problem of control. All of these features make walking not only the most economical gait for humans, but also the most sensible. Robotics has conventionally been fraught with many technical challenges, to the degree that human biomechanics have had little relevance to robot locomotion. However, recent advances such as the Honda Asimo humanoid robot surmount those challenges, making performance the next concern.  Next-generation robots will focus on speed, efficiency, and agility.  Humans are highly tuned for performance. We will discuss how the energetics of muscles result in trade-offs that make walking economical, and indeed, optimal. The characteristics of motors or other actuators will become increasingly important in determining the optimal robotic gait.



Speaker Biography


I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1983 to 1987, graduating with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering.  I then went to Stanford University to do a Ph.D. in the Mechanical Engineering Department’s Design Division.  There, I worked with Dennis Carter studying orthopaedic biomechanics and morphology of trabecular bone.  I then worked with Felix Zajac for my Ph.D., studying ways to describe the set of possible accelerations and forces that can be produced in a multi-body mechanical system, and applied that to analyzing human balance.  I received my Ph.D. in 1993 and then went to the R.S. Dow Neurological Sciences Institute in Portland, Oregon, to work with the Center for Vestibular Research, which was established to encourage interdisciplinary research involving neurophysiologists and engineers.  In 1994 I came to the University of Michigan, where I am now an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering.  My teaching is in the area of dynamics & vibrations, and systems & control.  I retain my research interests in human balance control, relying on the methods of control theory and multi-body dynamics.  I have a variety of other interests described in my Research page



Speaker Appointments

For appointments, please contact Jonathan Hurst (

The Robotics Institute is part of the School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.