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Ian D. Walker

Ian WalkerProfessor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Ph.D., 1989 - University of Texas, Austin
Electrical and Computer Engineering
M.S., 1985 - University of Texas, Austin
Electrical and Computer Engineering
B.S., 1983 - University of Hull, England

Contact Information
Office: 320 Fluor Daniel EIB
Office Phone: 864.656.7209
Fax: 864.656.7220

Research Group Website

Professor Walker is a Fellow of the IEEE and a Senior Member of the AIAA. He has served as Vice President for Financial Activities for the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, and as Chair of the AIAA Technical Committee on Space Automation and Robotics. He has also served on the Editorial Boards of the IEEE Transactions on Robotics, the IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation, the International Journal of Robotics and Automation, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, and the International Journal of Environmentally Conscious Design and Manufacturing. His research has been funded by DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, NASA/EPSCoR, NSF/EPSCoR, the Office of Naval Research, the U.S. Department of Energy, South Carolina Commission of Higher Education, Sandia National Laboratories, and Westinghouse Hanford Company.

Professor Walker's research centers on robotics, particularly novel manipulators and manipulation. His group is conducting basic research in the construction, modeling, and application of biologically-inspired "trunk, tentacle, and worm" robots. Their work is strongly motivated by the dexterous appendages found in cephalopods, particularly the arms and suckers of octopus, and the arms and tentacles of squid. The ongoing investigation of these animals reveals interesting functional aspects of their structure and behavior. The arrangement and dynamic operation of muscles and connective tissue observed in the arms of a variety of octopus species motivate the underlying design approach for our soft manipulators. These artificial manipulators feature biomimetic actuators, including artificial muscles based on pneumatic (McKibben) muscles. They feature a “clean” continuous backbone design, redundant degrees of freedom, and exhibit significant compliance that provides novel operational capacities during environmental interaction and object manipulation. The unusual compliance and redundant degrees of freedom provide strong potential for application to delicate tasks in cluttered and/or unstructured environments. This work in turn leads to novel approaches to motion planning and operator interfaces for the robots. This work is currently funded by DARPA under the DSO BIODYNOTICS program, by NASA, and by NASA/EPSCoR Dr. Walker also conducts research in the area of fault tolerance and reliability of robots. New work focuses on the creation of animated environments. This work in Architectural Robotics, a fast-emerging area, exploits key aspects of engineering and architecture in exploring how our environments of the future could morph in real time. Applications being investigated by Walker's group focus on assisted living and aging in place.