Robotics, Exoskeletons, & Human Robotic Interdependence

IHMC researchers are pushing the envelope of what is possible in robotics. We have an interdisciplinary group with expertise in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, mathematics, physics, human factors, and interface design. We focus on:

Humanoid Robots and Avatars

Our next-generation hydraulic robot, Nadia, gives us a new platform for research on locomotion and control, with the size, weight, speed, torque, and range of motion comparable to that of a typical human. We believe that, with the right skills, we can make humanoid robots function as human avatars and teammates.

We competed and placed second in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, an international competition aimed at advancing ground robotic capabilities focused on disaster response. Throughout that three-year competition (2012-2015), IHMC used the Boston Dynamics designed Atlas robot for the competition. We continue to do research using Atlas, but our primary focus is now a NASA project for co-exploration using humanoid robots as avatars. This project uses NASA Johnson Space Center’s Valkyrie humanoid robot. Both of these projects involve humans remotely operating humanoid robots in natural and man-made environments to accomplish useful work.


Our research in wearable robotics has developed several variations of lower body exoskeleton devices. The application of these devices includes mobility assistance for spinal paraplegic injuries, strength amplification for able-bodied users, and compact resistance exercise for astronauts in space. By collaborating with other leaders in the field such as NASA Johnson Space Center, our goal is advance wearable robotics to be a compact, lightweight, and safe avenue for increasing the quality of life and performance. We’re also working with the U.S. Department of Energy and Sandia National Labs to develop augmentative exoskeletons that offload the weight of heavy personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent long-term injury.

Legged Locomotion

IHMC has pioneered advanced control techniques for bipedal robots to maintain balance while walking over a variety of terrains. Our humanoid projects are focused on pushing our bipedal humanoids capabilities forward to handle rough terrain without any knowledge of the environment from onboard sensors. Ultimately, when this knowledge is included, their performance is further improved. We also are focusing on the ability to robustly handle external disturbances. We want to give our robots the ability to traverse environments they never have before.

Human-Machine Teamwork

Effective teaming between humanoids and human operators means understanding the design requirements for both the operator interface and the underlying algorithms. Our approach to this is called Coactive Design, and it has led to the development of a highly effective human avatar interface. We have applied this design to our unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) project, allowing the human aiding the UAV to navigate complex environments and avoid obstacles.

Some older projects include:

  • DARPA Robotics Challenge
  • Learning Locomotion Challenge
  • M2V2 Biped
  • FastRunner
  • Cybathlon 2016

Community outreach is a key piece of our mission. We use Science Saturdays, Summer Robotics Camps, internships, and open house events to inspire a new generation of scientific thinkers. This outreach is just one way we introduce robotics, engineering, and science to young people, to ensure there is no shortage of talented researchers ready to help develop the next great robot.

Recent Publications

Reachability Aware Capture Regions with Time Adjustment and Cross-Over for Step Recovery

Generating Humanoid Multi-Contact through Feasibility Visualization

Humanoid path planning over rough terrain using traversability assessment

Comparing the Effectiveness of Control Methodologies of a Hip-Knee-Ankle Exoskeleton During Squatting

Integrable Whole-Body Orientation Coordinates for Legged Robots

Quadrupedal Walking over Complex Terrain with a Quasi-Direct Drive Actuated Robot

Lessons Learned from two iterations of LLAMA, an Electrically Powered, Dynamic Quadruped Robot

Design of Mission-Based Traversability Assessment (MeTA) Tool for Unmanned Vehicles

Team IHMC At The 2020 Cybathlon: A UserCentered Approach Towards Personal Mobility Exoskeletons

A Fast, Autonomous, Bipedal Walking Behavior over Rapid Regions

Proprioceptive State Estimation of Legged Robots with Kinematic Chain Modeling

Towards extreme mobility humanoid resupply robots

Modelling Software Architecture for Visual Simultaneous Localization and Mapping

GPU-Accelerated Rapid Planar Region Extraction for Dynamic Behaviors on Legged Robots

Design and Validation of a Cable-Driven Asymmetric Back Exosuit

Time-Varying Model Predictive Control for Highly Dynamic Motions of Quadrupedal Robots

MPC-based Locomotion Control of Bipedal Robots with Line-Feet Contact using Centroidal Dynamics

Detecting Usable Planar Regions for Legged Robot Locomotion

The Role of Interdependence in Trust

Non-Linear Trajectory Optimization for Large Step-Ups: Application to the Humanoid Robot Atlas

Achieving Versatile Energy Efficiency With the WANDERER Biped Robot