Artificial Life and Robotics

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 274–281 | Cite as

A robot leg with compliant tarsus and its neural control for efficient and adaptive locomotion on complex terrains

  • G. Di Canio
  • S. Stoyanov
  • J. C. Larsen
  • J. Hallam
  • A. Kovalev
  • T. Kleinteich
  • S. N. Gorb
  • P. ManoonpongEmail author
Special Feature: Original Article


Insects, like dung beetles, show fascinating locomotor abilities. They can use their legs to walk on complex terrains (e.g., rocky and curved surfaces) and to manipulate objects. They also exploit their compliant tarsi, increasing the contact area between the legs and surface, to enhance locomotion, and object manipulation efficiency. Besides these biomechanical components, their neural control allows them to move at a proper frequency with respect to their biomechanical properties and to quickly adapt their movements to deal with environmental changes. Realizing these complex achievements on artificial systems remains a grand challenge. As a step towards this direction, we present here our first prototype of an artificial dung beetle-like leg with compliant tarsus by analyzing real dung beetle legs through \(\mu\)CT scans. Compliant tarsus was designed according to the so-called fin ray effect. Real robot experiments show that the leg with compliant tarsus can efficiently move on rocky and curved surfaces. We also apply neural control, based on a central pattern generator (CPG) circuit and synaptic plasticity, to autonomously generate a proper moving frequency of the leg. The controller can also adapt the leg movement to deal with environmental changes, like different treadmill speeds, within a few steps.


Central pattern generator Bio-inspired robotics Neural control Embodiment Adaptive locomotion Dung beetle Fin ray 



This research was supported by Center for BioRobotics (CBR) at University of Southern Denmark (SDU, Denmark) and the Scandinavian Guest Professorship program of Kiel University (CAU, Germany).


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Copyright information

© ISAROB 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Di Canio
    • 1
  • S. Stoyanov
    • 1
  • J. C. Larsen
    • 1
  • J. Hallam
    • 2
  • A. Kovalev
    • 3
  • T. Kleinteich
    • 3
  • S. N. Gorb
    • 3
  • P. Manoonpong
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Embodied AI and Neurorobotics Lab, Centre for BioRobotics, The Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller InstituteUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark
  2. 2.Centre for BioRobotics,The Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller InstituteUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark
  3. 3.Functional Morphology and Biomechanics, Zoological InstituteKiel UniversityKielGermany

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