Series Elastic Actuators provide many benefits in force control of robots in unconstrained environments. These benefits include high force fidelity, extremely low impedance, low friction, and good force control bandwidth. Series Elastic Actuators employ a novel mechanical design architecture which goes against the common machine design principal of “stiffer is better”. A compliant element is placed between the gear train and driven load to intentionally reduce the stiffness of the actuator. A position sensor measures the deflection, and the force output is accurately calculated using Hooke’s Law (F=Kx). A control loop then servos the actuator to the desired output force. The resulting actuator has inherent shock tolerance, high force fidelity and extremely low impedance. These characteristics are desirable in many applications including legged robots, exoskeletons for human performance amplification, robotic arms, haptic interfaces, and adaptive suspensions.