LEGRO aims to further the investigation of technical problems involved in the realisation of mobile semi-autonomous vehicles that use "legs" instead of wheels to navigate in difficult and partly unstructured environments. The focus of the Group will be to fill the gap between the current state of experimental devices and programs, suited to operate in a laboratory setting, and the requirements of industrial product design. In particular, areas such as kinematic design and analysis, dynamic simulation and mechanical design for reliability, gait organisation and planning techniques, control techniques for real time equilibrium maintenance, sensorial information processing and sensor-based control, tactile information in autonomous obstacle avoidance, and man-machine interface design for various level of control, will be investigated.
The investigation will also involve the application of advanced object-oriented software engineering methods, software reuse technology and domain analysis, in order to obtain a product design that responds to the needs for a flexible, universal base module to be integrated into a modern IT-based system. In this context the evaluation of real time hardware and software architectures, real time operating systems and scheduling will be carried out.
The expertise of the Group is broad enough to tackle the design of a legged vehicle and its semi-autonomous guidance system. Sub-groups will be formed with closer affinities in goals and methods, that will concentrate on tackling specific topics. The coordinator will organise general Group meetings to review the state of advancement of research in specific areas. One of these meetings, probably near the conclusion of the Group activity, will be open to the international scientific community and to general public. A semi-annual LEGRO newsletter informing the public about the ongoing work will be distributed.
Legged locomotion systems possess significant advantages over wheeled vehicles for moving on difficult terrains. Typical applications are in dangerous situations, as in decommissioning of nuclear plants, or in unstructured environments, as in planetary or underwater exploration, forestry, and mining. The IT aspects of this project also promise interesting results in the design of modular robotic components that do not stand alone, but are meant to be integrated into a larger, IT-driven system architecture. Only recently have methods in IT become available to assist this type of design in an effective way. The application of Object-Oriented software engineering methods and recent advances in software reuse and domain analysis will provide a common set of conventions and terminology for interfaces to other parts of the overall system architecture.