Google Research

Fast and Efficient Locomotion via Learned Gait Transitions

Conference on Robot Learning (2021)


We focus on the problem of developing energy efficient controllers for quadrupedal robots. Animals can actively switch gaits at different speeds to lower their energy consumption. In this paper, we devise a hierarchical learning framework, in which distinctive locomotion gaits and natural gait transitions emerge automatically with a simple reward of energy minimization. We use evolutionary strategies (ES) to train a high-level gait policy that specifies gait patterns of each foot, while the low-level convex MPC controller optimizes the motor commands so that the robot can walk at a desired velocity using that gait pattern. We test our learning framework on a quadruped robot and demonstrate automatic gait transitions, from walking to trotting and to fly-trotting, as the robot increases its speed. We show that the learned hierarchical controller consumes much less energy across a wide range of locomotion speed than baseline controllers.

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