The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

World's Cleverest Jumping Robot Gets Faster, More Agile

The "bio-inspired miniature steerable jumping robot" now comes with faster steering and better jumping while staying just as miniature

2 min read
World's Cleverest Jumping Robot Gets Faster, More Agile

I have absolutely no foundation for calling this the "world's cleverest" jumping robot, except that we've covered a whole bunch of jumping robots, and this one is easily one of the most brilliant designs that we've seen. We first met this little guy at ICRA, where it showed off its ability to jump, land without smashing itself to pieces, stand up again, turn, and then make another jump. Cool, and now it's just gotten some serious upgrades.

The epic cleverness of this robot (which was developed by Jianguo Zhao at Michigan State University) comes from the fact that it uses just one single pager motor to jump, self-right after landing, and then orient itself to make its next jump in the right direction. Wondering how all of that is possible? Just watch:

Since we first saw this robot, it's gotten some substantial improvements. It has nearly doubled its jumping height to just under a meter, which is about 14 times the height of the robot itself. It can turn much, much faster, at 36 degrees per second, up from 2 degrees per second. And the self-righting system is significantly more robust. All of this stuff has happened without the robot increasing in size or weight, which is fairly remarkable, and it's so efficient that it can jump hundreds of times without needing to recharge.

A robot like this has all sorts of potential uses, although most of them fall into the (by now familiar) categories of search and rescue, environmental monitoring, and military surveillance. It'll be straightforward enough to mount a payload (like a wireless camera) onto this little guy, but in order to be really useful, it's probably going to have to learn how to right itself on non-flat surfaces. I'm not worried, though: I'm sure there's some sort of clever little tweak that'll make this robot able to jump from rough surfaces, clear tall buildings in a single bound, solve the world's energy problems, and play the piano, all on one pager motor.

[ Bio-inspired Miniature Steerable Jumping Robot ]

Thanks Jianguo!

UPDATED November 28, 2011, 10:10 a.m. Corrected affiliation of the robot's creators.

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

Keep Reading ↓Show less