by David Geer
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
Virginia Tech has a long history of robotics research including the DARwIn (Dynamic
Anthropomorphic Robot with Intelligence) series humanoid robot platform which began in
2004 at the Robotics and Mechanisms Lab (RoMeLa) there to study bipedal locomotion, gait
generation, and motion control. According to Dennis Hong, PhD, Director of RoMeLa, there
have been six iterations of the robot. The first — DARwIn 0 — was a feasibility study prototype,
constructed to determine what type of actuators to use and how to control them. RoMeLa’s
software made the first robot stand up and walk. However, without feedback data for
stabilization retrieved from rate gyros and force sensors, the first robot fell over frequently.
Dennis Hong, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering
Department, Director of Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory,
Virginia Tech with several of the DARwIn-OP robots.
10 SERVO 04.2011
The second DARwIn — DARwIn 1 — used simulations to help generate stable motion without the robot falling
over. Researchers used kinematics and dynamic models of
the robot together with easy-to-use GUIs to simulate gaits.
By simulating gaits in software, the researchers were able
to advance the robot’s walking capabilities much more
In DARwIn 2, the researchers added true intelligence,
as well as machine vision with IEEE 1394 cameras, an on-board computer that is a PC104+ running LabVIEW real
time, kinematically spherical joints in the hips and
shoulders, and lithium-polymer batteries.
The robot can track objects with its cameras on its
movable head, while the computer vision software locates
and identifies objects based on camera input. With the
combination of all these capabilities, DARwIn 2 is able to
kick a ball autonomously into a goal which helped it to
become the first humanoid robot in the US to be qualified
for the international autonomous robot soccer competition
RoboCup in the humanoid division.
Due to demand, Virginia Tech in conjunction with
robotics labs at the University of Pennsylvania and Purdue
University, and the Korean robot company Robotis is
producing a fully open source hardware and software robot
platform called DARwIn-OP for education outreach and
research, with support from the NSF (National Science
“We have been using Robotis’ Dynamixel servo
actuators for the DARwIn series humanoids since 2004 and
are very happy with them. Thus, it is natural that Robotis
would be a partner for this project. But note that though