Andy Ruina an engineer from Cornell Univeristy, and Mario Gomez a mechanical engineer from Rochester Institute of Technology, have allegedly determined the mathematically most energy efficient technique of walking yet to be discovered – and I think it’s fair to say, it looks rather ridiculous (see video: http://www.nature.com/nature/newsvideo/energyfreewalker.mov). Simulated on a simplified two-dimensional torso with rigid legs, the motion relies on a pendulum movement from the limbs, rocked back and forth by a springy torso. The key is, apparently, that each foot bears no weight until stationary on the floor. Published this month in Physical Review E, it is hoped this research might revolutionise robotics, whose state-of-art walkers currently require large amounts of energy to function, and generally in the overall understanding of human and animal locomotion. It also provides hopes for those in need of prosthetic limbs. Steve Collins, a mechanical engineer responsible for prosthetic limb research, believes though it is obviously not practical in its current state, the ideas could be reincorporated into revolutionary designs.
It is obviously still in its early stages of development and more detail needs to be added to the model before the true scope of applications can be realised, but I imagine the “Ministry of Silly Walks” will be happy to provide the funding