We have made a systematic study of the gait of a straight leg planar passive walking model through simulations and experiments. Three normalised parameters, which represent the foot radius, the position of the mass centre and the moment of inertia, are used to characterise the walking model.
In the simulation, we have obtained the fixed points and the basins of attraction of the walking models with different parameter combinations by the aid of the cell mapping method. With the results of fixed points, we investigated the effects of parameter variations on the gait descriptors, including step length, period, average speed and energy inefficiency. A model that has a large basin of attraction has been obtained, and it can start walking far from its fixed point. However, the size of the basin of attraction is not a good measurement of robustness. Thus, we proposed floors with random slope angles or stairs with random heights to test robustness. Five hundred times of simulations with 100 non-dimensional time units were implemented for each parameter combination. The times that the walker failed to arrive at the end were recorded. The simulation results showed that the model with a larger foot radius and higher position of mass centre has a lower possibility of falling on uneven floors. A large moment of inertia is helpful for walking on a random slope angle floor, while low values of moment of inertia are good for navigating random stairs.
Prototype experiments have validated the simulation results, which showed that models with larger feet have a longer step length and high speed. However, period differences were difficult to obtain in the experiments since the differences were very small. We have tested the sensitivity with the initial conditions of the models with different foot radii on a flat floor, and have also tested the robustness of the models on a floor with random slope angles. The times that the model reached the end of the floor were recorded. The experimental results showed that a large foot radius is good for improving the basin of attraction and robustness on uneven floors. Finally, the exceptions of the experiment are explained.