How to Walk Without Muscles (Or a Brain)

Could a robot walk without motors to power the movement or computers to control it? Apparently so. Watch this eight-second video for proof.

Via Noijam

Here's another cool video of a passive robot and his proud Papa, who can just barely deal with his nerdy excitement:

h/t Sarah Young.

It's a bit shocking to see the elegance and grace of human gait so eerily reproduced by ... freakin' robots. How can these contraptions move like humans without muscles? And without even a nervous system? I think there is a lot to learn about movement (and human nature) from studying robotics. Here's one takeaway for me.

A big part of motor intelligence lives in the “design” of the passive elements of the motor control system – the bones, fascia, tendons, connective tissue, etc. When the passive structures are optimally designed (by natural selection) for a certain task, the muscular and neural systems don’t have to work very hard to produce optimal movement patterns. Consider people who are born “naturals'” in certain sports. Some people were just born to run. Or throw a ball ninety miles an hour. Or dance. A good portion of their movement genius resides in their bones, not their brains.

For several other articles on this blog addressing similar topics, check out the following:

On the three elements of the motor control system: active, passive and neural: What is Your Movement Style?

On the importance of the skeleton in determining function: Dem Bones: Skeletal Structure and Movement Function

On dynamic systems, and the effect of structure on function: How Structure Affects Function

And for more (much more) on dynamic systems: A Systems Perspective on Chronic Pain