This high-jumping robot could help search and rescue missions

Roboticists create a robot with the highest vertical jumping agility ever.

The robot, which is being presented in Science Robotics, is capable of both jumping high into the air and rebounding off walls. The roboticists based the mechanisms on the galago, a small African primate that is the most vertically agile animal in the world. We talked to lead researcher, Duncan Haldane, University California, Berkeley to find out what this robot could do in the real-world.

ResearchGate: Can you briefly explain what is special about this robot?

Duncan Haldane: This robot was built to test a new way of building jumping systems. It uses a novel robotics strategy found in animals that are highly adapted for jumping. Based on this new idea, we created Salto, a robot which can jump both high and fast; it can perform a standing jump up to one meter, and then perform that exact same jump again as soon as its foot touches down. With this jumping performance, we were able to show a new wall-jump behavior, and we have the highest vertical jumping agility of any untethered robot.

RG: What inspired you to build this robot?

Haldane: The inspiration came from visiting simulated collapsed buildings at the Urban Search and Rescue training site of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Menlo Park. After seeing the kinds of challenges facing robots in that scenario, I wanted to build a platform that would be able to manage them more easily.

We also wanted to test new ideas for jumping systems and scientifically evaluate the new strategy found in specialized animal jumpers.

RG:  What real-world purposes could this robot serve?

Haldane: The robot itself was built with the idea of search and rescue in mind. More generally, we now have a small robot that can move quickly in human-scale environments and get itself into interesting places, as opposed to being constrained to the floor or a desk.

RG: What does this development mean for the field of robotics?

Haldane: This research shows a few ways to improve jumping performance for robotics in general. We're also trying a new agile locomotion that allows robots to move in highly-complex environments. This will help move away from walking on simple steps or ramps into a scenario like a collapsed building.

RG: What are the next steps in this research?

Haldane: The next step is to chain together more sequential jumps and push the envelope for what robots are capable of doing.

Image credit Stephen McNally.