Abstract

Animals interact with their environment softly through interaction of muscles, tendons, and rigid skeleton. By incorporating flexibility, they reduce ground impact forces and improve locomotive efficiency. Flexibility is also beneficial for robotic systems, although it remains challenging to implement. In this paper, we explore the addition of passive flexibility to a quadrupedal animat; we measure the impact of flexibility on both locomotive performance and energy efficiency of movement. Results show that spine and lower limb flexibility can significantly increase distance traveled when compared to an animat with no flexibility. However, replacing passively flexibile joints with actively controlled joints evolves more effective individuals with similar efficiency. Given these results, the number of joints and joint configuration appear to drive performance increases rather than just the addition of passive flexibility.

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