I'm Stéphane Caron, a locomotion software engineer at ANYbotics working with fantastic ANYmal quadrupeds. Before that, I was researcher in humanoid locomotion at CNRS in the IDH team in Montpellier, France, and visiting its sister laboratory JRL in Tsukuba, Japan. In both groups I've had the chance to work with excellent HRP humanoid robots.
How can we make legged robots walk better? At first, I thought their main limitation came from walking pattern generation, and studied that question, before coming to the conclusion that the technological bottleneck lied elsewhere. I then switched from Python to C++ and developed an open-source walking controller to make the HRP-4 humanoid climb stairs. In 2019, we used it in an industrial demonstrator at the Airbus Saint-Nazaire factory with the robot going through a pre-defined scenario: locate the staircase, climb it, go to a table, pick up a workpiece, apply it to the fuselage of an aircraft, etc.
Yet, HRP-4 and its fellow robots have the potential to walk in even more general scenarios. In this big picture, I focus on improving their balancing and decision making strategies. These are exciting questions to work on!... How can we make legged robots walk better?
I believe that, as researchers, we should always distribute the source code of our published experiments and demos, to its fullest extent (i.e. striving to rely on open source dependencies as well). Publishing a container image with both binaries and compilable source code is the best. Even when manuscripts try to go into fine technical details, there's always a knowledge gap between the roboticists doing the work and their fellows reproducing it. By letting everyone check the source code, we make sure knowledge gaps can be crossed by putting in the time to dig into said code. Papers cannot be fully detailed on every point, but working source code has to.
On the publishing side, I support the model of overlay journals, also known as reviewing entities or "Peer Community in", where peer reviewing happens on pre-print repositories like arXiv or HAL. We should put out pre-prints first, then iterate on them in the open taking into account feedback from colleagues and reviewers.