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In this paper, we investigate different possible strategies underlying the formation of human locomotor trajectories in goal-directed walking. Seven subjects were asked to walk within a motion capture facility from a fixed starting point and direction, and to cross over distant porches for which both position and direction in the room were changed over trials. Stereotyped trajectories were observed in the different subjects. The underlying idea to attack this question has been to relate this problem to an optimal control scheme: the trajectory is chosen according to some optimization principle. This is our basic starting assumption. The subject being viewed as a controlled system, we tried to identify several criteria that could be optimized. Is it the time to perform the trajectory? The length of the path? The minimum jerk along the path? We found that the variation (time derivative) of the curvature of the locomotor paths is minimized. Moreover, we show that the human locomotor trajectories are well approximated by the geodesics of a differential system minimizing the norm of the control. Such geodesics are made of arcs of clothoids. The clothoid or Cornu spiral is a curve, whose curvature grows with the distance from the origin.
Date of Publication: Feb. 2008