Robots

This adorable jumping robot is totally off the wall

The SALTO robot (University of California, Berkeley).

The SALTO robot (University of California, Berkeley).

There’s a new robot on the block, and it’s a cute, frog-like creation that’s an amazing jumper.

Named SALTO and developed in California, the machine stands just about 10 inches tall, but can jump straight up from a crouch to over three feet high. Not only that, the robotic critter— made with an eye towards someday helping with search and rescue operations— can execute a parkour-like move and jump off the ground, then off a wall.

Duncan Haldane, first author on a study about the new robot and a PhD candidate at University of California, Berkeley, said his team was inspired to make SALTO after talking with first responders at an urban rescue training site.

NEW RECORD! ROBOT SOLVES RUBIK'S CUBE IN LESS THAN A SECOND

“Our goal was to have a search and rescue robot small enough to not disturb the rubble further, [and] move quickly across the many kinds of rubble produced by collapsed buildings,” he said during a teleconference on Monday. “To do that, it has to be able to jump.”

Further inspiration for the robot came from a stellar natural jumper, an animal called a galago, or bush baby, that can jump as high as about five and a half feet high in the lab, and do it quickly.

“We don’t quite reach the galago’s performance, but SALTO has 56 percent more vertical jumping agility than any other untethered robot,” Haldane said.

HARVARD HAS BUILT A CIGARETTE-SMOKING ROBOT, AND IT'S HERE TO HELP

Haldane highlighted that because the robot is such a good jumper, it can use its environment in a dynamic way, like leap off the ground, then bounce off a wall— a skill that calls to mind the famous parkour chase scene in the James Bond film “Casino Royale.”

“The closest model for what we’re trying to do is human parkour,” Haldane said, in a video about the robot. “You have these people that like excel at running over buildings, bouncing off of all these crazy obstacles, using stuff that would otherwise be an obstacle, like a wall, as a feature to help yourself move.”

The study about SALTO appears in the first issue of a new journal, Science Robotics.

Follow Rob Verger on Twitter: @robverger