Everyone knows there is a something about the way a girl walks. It’s not just about getting from here to there, it’s about getting from here to there as a girl. Nature has been hard at work for millions of years crafting that walk that will cause other’s to notice when a girl or woman is doing nothing more than walking by. And engineers in Japan have been taking notice of that fact, realizing that if people see a robot that not only looks like a girl, but walks and talks like one, that it or she, will be treated as such. And that’s the whole point. AIST has been working very hard to solve this problem, and have now released a video that shows they just might be getting close. And to prove this is serious stuff, they’ve also written a paper about their project, which they’ve published in lEEEXplore.
The HRP-4C, as the engineers call the robot, has far more motors than traditional robots, which allow for more movement of virtually all body parts as the robot walks. This came about after many hours of studying the fluid dynamics involved in the subtle grace with which women walk. Two key factors in particular got the most study. The role of toes in supporting the weight of the body during a certain phase of each step and how legs tend to straighten out more than do traditional robots, which in many cases, have more closely resembled the way that Frankenstein walks than real life women.
The researchers also note that after watching many hours of video, it became clear that there is a certain characteristic stretching that goes on in the knees when women walk that isn’t present in men, or other robots. That little bit of knee stretching comes about as the legs compensate for wider hip displacement than men, or for the straight legged robots of sci-fi movies.
The video has been a hit online, with visitors naming the robot Miim; though this came in a much earlier iteration. In the beginning, the goal for Miim was to look beautiful and sing in a sweet voice, which it did very well. Getting Miim up on legs and having her walk in ways that make her sweet face and voice proud, has by all accounts been a much more difficult task.
In watching the video, it’s clear the team has come a long way, but it’s also clear there is more work to be done before anyone confuses the still somewhat mechanical gait with the smooth stroll of the natural female human form.