Comparison of human and humanoid robot control of upright stance

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30 Scopus citations


There is considerable recent interest in developing humanoid robots. An important substrate for many motor actions in both humans and biped robots is the ability to maintain a statically or dynamically stable posture. Given the success of the human design, one would expect there are lessons to be learned in formulating a postural control mechanism for robots. In this study we limit ourselves to considering the problem of maintaining upright stance. Human stance control is compared to a suggested method for robot stance control called zero moment point (ZMP) compensation. Results from experimental and modeling studies suggest there are two important subsystems that account for the low- and mid-frequency (DC to ∼1 Hz) dynamic characteristics of human stance control. These subsystems are (1) a "sensory integration" mechanism whereby orientation information from multiple sensory systems encoding body kinematics (i.e. position, velocity) is flexibly combined to provide an overall estimate of body orientation while allowing adjustments (sensory re-weighting) that compensate for changing environmental conditions and (2) an "effort control" mechanism that uses kinetic-related (i.e., force-related) sensory information to reduce the mean deviation of body orientation from upright. Functionally, ZMP compensation is directly analogous to how humans appear to use kinetic feedback to modify the main sensory integration feedback loop controlling body orientation. However, a flexible sensory integration mechanism is missing from robot control leaving the robot vulnerable to instability in conditions where humans are able to maintain stance. We suggest the addition of a simple form of sensory integration to improve robot stance control. We also investigate how the biological constraint of feedback time delay influences the human stance control design. The human system may serve as a guide for improved robot control, but should not be directly copied because the constraints on robot and human control are different.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-158
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physiology Paris
Issue number3-5
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Human
  • Robot
  • Sensory integration
  • Stance control
  • ZMP
  • Zero moment point

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology (medical)


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