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Dutch Robot Learns to Walk Like a Man

A new robot that walks like humans is one of the most advanced of its kind.

Attempts to get robots moving like people typically result in very stilted gaits and limited range of motion.

Human walking is "really very similar to falling forward in a controlled fashion," researchers at TU Delft in The Netherlands explained. "Adopting this method replaces the cautious, rigid way in which robots walk with the more fluid, energy-efficient movement used by humans."

The new robot, Flame, weighs about 40 pounds (15 kg) and is 4 feet tall (1.3 meters). Its got several moving joints attenuated by springs. An inertia sensor (called an "organ of balance") helps keep the 'bot stable. Seven motors get it all going.

• Click here to see Flame in action.

Flame can move at 1 mph (0.45 meters per second) and deal with steps down as long as they're not more than one-third of an inch (8 mm).

As it walks, swaying side-to-side like a flat-footed human, Flame uses its organ of balance to dictate how far apart its feet are placed, to prevent falls.

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Project leader Daan Hobbelen gets his Ph.D. this week for all the work.

Hobbelen said Flame is the most advanced walking robot in the world, at least in the category of robots which apply the human method of walking as a starting principle.

Research done to build the robot provides insight into how people walk, the researchers say, and this could lead to better training and rehabilitation equipment.

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