The history of robotics is littered with inspiration from animals. Called biomimicry, it has often been used by scientists to solve complex structural and design problems. In a new related development, researchers from University of California, Berkeley, designed a small robot, which has “the highest robotic vertical jumping agility ever recorded.” Known as Salto (short for saltatorial locomotion on terrain obstacles), the robot is 10.2 inches tall when fully extended and can jump up to 1 meter (almost 3.3 feet), which is more than three times its full height. Its development was inspired by galago, a small African primate known for its jumping ability.
The galago can jump five times in just four seconds to gain a combined height of almost 28 feet. Like the animal, Salto can also make multiple jumps, by bouncing off walls, and therefore gain height in subsequent jumps.
The researchers designed a new measurement to compare vertical agility by multiplying the height of a single jump by the frequency at which the jumps can be made. The galago shows a vertical jumping agility of 2.24 meters per second, while Salto achieved 78 percent of that at 1.75 meters per second. By comparison, a bullfrog jumps 1.71 meters per second.
“Developing a metric to easily measure vertical agility was key to Salto’s design because it allowed us to rank animals by their jumping agility and then identify a species for inspiration,” Duncan Haldane, a robotics Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkeley and leader of the research, said in a statement. A related study, titled “Robotic vertical jumping agility via series-elastic power modulation,” was published Tuesday in the journal Science Robotics.
In another unrelated study, also in California, researchers at Stanford University studied a small parrot as it “flew through a laser sheet that illuminated nontoxic, micron-sized aerosol particles. As the bird flew through the seeded laser sheet, its wing motion disturbed the particles to generate a detailed record of the vortices created by the flight.”