Katja Mombaur

Short Biography

Katja Mombaur joined the University Waterloo in March 2020 as Full Professor and Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) for Human-Centred Robotics & Machine Intelligence.

Prior to coming to Canada, she has been a full professor at the Institute of Computer Engineering of Heidelberg University and head of the Optimization, Robotics & Biomechanics Chair, as well as coordinator of the Heidelberg Center for Motion Research. She holds a diploma degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Stuttgart and a Ph.D. degree in Mathematics from Heidelberg University and has worked as a researcher at Seoul National University and at LAAS-CNRS in Toulouse. She has coordinated the European project KoroiBot and has been part of several other European projects such as Spexor, MOBOT, and ECHORD, and still is a partner in the ongoing European projects Eurobench and Agilis, and one of the directors of the HeiAge project in Heidelberg.

From humans to robots: improving whole-body stability and robustness in humanoid robots from an analysis of Karate experts

A fundamental understanding of human movement and the underlying dynamic principles can provide important insights for robotics and result in bio-inspired improved design and control ideas. A particular kind of insight can be gained from the study of motions in sports. They can give insights into differences between motions of experts and beginning athletes and suitable metrics to quantify them, and they can show us how complex motions are learned over time. And some sports can teach us a lot about stability and robustness in challenging motions and postures, which is a particularly interesting topic for humanoid and other bipedal robots. In this talk I will present our experimental research on Karate athletes of different skill levels, which includes perturbations studies as well regular motion elements and interactions. We then extract basic principles for motion stabilization taking physical models of the human body with open and closed control loops as well as optimization principles into account. These principles can serve as an inspiration for improving controllers in humanoid robots. I would like to emphasize that our goal is not to teach Karate to humanoid robots but to use this knowledge to improve stability and robustness against perturbations in more standard situations that humanoids are still struggling with.