ANU Reporter Volume 26 No 7, Wednesday 3 May 1995.

ANU Reporter Volume 26 No 7, published on Wednesday 3 May 1995, displayed Ramesh Bale's ultimate walking machine.

Walking like a human

Robotic machines that enable humans to go into inaccessible areas have fascinated scientists and engineers for decades, as RICHARD FOX uncovers.

Where oxygen is limited or poisonous chemicals are abundant, human activity on Earth can be stopped.

And with about half of the world's surface inaccessible to wheeled or tracked vehicles, ANU Masters of Engineering student Ramesh Bale, ME '95, thought he had a plan to conquer the rest of the globe.

It may have looked unassuming but Bale's prototype "walking machine", which featured on the front page of ANU Reporter in May 1995, was to walk like a human into unreachable terrain.

According to Bale and his supervisor from the ANU Department of Engineering Dr Jon Kieffer, the biped walking machine would help solve "the many control problems associated with machines that must have both the capacity to balance continuously and to step", ANU Reporter stated.

"This machine will enable us to experiment with new control strategies," Kieffer said.

"Its dynamics are complex enough to be very interesting but simple enough that they can be analysed completely."

Humans maintain their balance by pitching their torso forwards and backwards.

Bale's machine, the controls of which were designed by Sawar Akbar, BE (Hons) '95, kept its balance by accelerating and decelerating the spin of its wheel-like body.

Built out of aluminium, the prototype comprised two kneeless 'legs', with feet at either end.

This enabled it to be able to tackle stairs and rocky terrain.

"Mathematically, this is the simplest biped attempted so far," Bale said.