Salto – the parkour robot that can jump better than a bullfrog

A small robot that can leap into the air and then spring off a wall,
or perform multiple vertical jumps in a row, resulting in the highest robotic vertical jumping agility ever recorded has been unveiled in Science Robotics.

The agility of the robot opens new pathways of locomotion that were not previously attainable. The researchers, from University of California, Berkeley, hope that one day this robot and other vertically agile robots can be used to jump around rubble in search and rescue missions.

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Good things – and high jumpers – come in small packages.
Stephen McNally

To build the robot, known as Salto (for saltatorial locomotion on terrain obstacles), the team studied the animal kingdom’s most vertically agile creature, the galago –  a small, nocturnal primate native to continental Africa.

It can jump five times in just four seconds to gain a combined height of 8.5 metres thanks to a special ability to store energy in its tendons, allowing it to jump to heights not achievable by its muscles alone.

To compare the vertical agility of robots and animals, the researchers developed a new metric to measure vertical agility, defined as the height that something can reach with a single jump in Earth gravity, multiplied by the frequency at which that jump can be made.

Salto’s robotic vertical jumping agility is 1.75 metres per second, which is higher than the vertical jumping agility of a bullfrog (1.71 metres per second) but short of the vertical jumping agility of the galago (2.24 metres per second). 

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