Despite the neuromechanical complexity underlying animal locomotion, the steady-state center-of-mass motions and ground reaction forces of animal running can be predicted by simple spring-mass models such as the canonical spring-loaded inverted pendulum (SLIP) model. Such SLIP models have been useful for the fields of biomechanics and robotics in part because ground reaction forces are commonly measured and readily available for comparing with model predictions. To better predict the stability of running, beyond the canonical conservative SLIP model, more recent extensions have been proposed and investigated with hip actuation and linear leg damping (e.g., hip-actuated SLIP). So far, these attempts have gained improved prediction of the stability of locomotion but have led to a loss of the ability to accurately predict ground reaction forces. Unfortunately, the linear damping utilized in current models leads to an unrealistic prediction of damping force and ground reaction force with a large nonzero magnitude at touchdown (TD). Here, we develop a leg damping model that is bilinear in leg length and velocity in order to yield improved damping force and ground reaction force prediction. We compare the running ground reaction forces, small and large perturbation stability, parameter sensitivity, and energetic cost resulting from both the linear and bilinear damping models. We found that bilinear damping helps to produce more realistic, smooth vertical ground reaction forces, thus fixing the current problem with the linear damping model. Despite large changes in the damping force and power loss profile during the stance phase, the overall dynamics and energetics on a stride-to-stride basis of the two models are largely the same, implying that the integrated effect of damping over a stride is what matters most to the stability and energetics of running. Overall, this new model, an actuated SLIP model with bilinear damping, can provide significantly improved prediction of ground reaction forces as well as stability and energetics of locomotion.

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