The Loh Down On Science

Penguin Waddle

To improve the gait of human-like robots, science turns to... the penguin?

Contrary to what you thought--that penguin is no pushover!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

And on. . . the waddle.

Researchers at the University of Houston recently analyzed the strides of ten king penguins at the local Moody Gardens Aquarium. They found that while step LENGTH varied like the dickens, step WIDTH was remarkably consistent. Which, compared to humans, is the, um, POLAR, opposite.

That is, OUR foot placement varies more in the east-west direction to maintain balance--we shift our feet from side to side. Penguins are just as stable but compensate by rocking north-south-- back and forth.

Other than making for intriguing dinner conversation, the finding could improve the moves of bipedal walking robots. Right now, robots like Honda's famous ASIMO [AH-she-mo] are almost, but not quite, human. They can walk, even run!

But they'll need some fine-tuning before they can take over the human race. If we could just combine human and penguin gait patterns, it just might be possible .

So don't laugh at the stable--if waddling--penguin. Unless you're laughing at the fake tuxedo look. Now that's funny!


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