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J Exp Biol. 2003 Apr;206(Pt 7):1127-36.

Predicting the metabolic energy costs of bipedalism using evolutionary robotics.

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  • 1Department of Human Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough LE11 3TU, UK.


To understand the evolution of bipedalism among the hominoids in an ecological context we need to be able to estimate the energetic cost of locomotion in fossil forms. Ideally such an estimate would be based entirely on morphology since, except for the rare instances where footprints are preserved, this is the only primary source of evidence available. In this paper we use evolutionary robotics techniques (genetic algorithms, pattern generators and mechanical modeling) to produce a biomimetic simulation of bipedalism based on human body dimensions. The mechanical simulation is a seven-segment, two-dimensional model with motive force provided by tension generators representing the major muscle groups acting around the lower-limb joints. Metabolic energy costs are calculated from the muscle model, and bipedal gait is generated using a finite-state pattern generator whose parameters are produced using a genetic algorithm with locomotor economy (maximum distance for a fixed energy cost) as the fitness criterion. The model is validated by comparing the values it generates with those for modern humans. The result (maximum efficiency of 200 J m(-1)) is within 15% of the experimentally derived value, which is very encouraging and suggests that this is a useful analytic technique for investigating the locomotor behaviour of fossil forms. Initial work suggests that in the future this technique could be used to estimate other locomotor parameters such as top speed. In addition, the animations produced by this technique are qualitatively very convincing, which suggests that this may also be a useful technique for visualizing bipedal locomotion.

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