New robot designed with unparalleled vertical agility
The robot, dubbed Salto, was inspired by the animal kingdom's most vertically agile creature, the galago.
The latest robot now has the ability to leap into the air and spring off walls. Roboticists at UC Berkeley have designed a small robot that can perform multiple vertical jumps in a row, resulting in the highest robotic vertical jumping agility ever recorded.
Researchers hope that this latest development can enable robots to be used for search and rescue missions, where the vertically agile bot can jump in and out of rubble.
The robot, dubbed Salto, was inspired by animal kingdom’s most vertically agile creature, the galago, which can jump five times in just four seconds to gain a combined height of 8.5 meters (27.9 feet).
To compare the vertical agility of robots and animals, the engineers 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. S
alto’s robotic vertical jumping agility is 1.75 meters per second, which is higher than the vertical jumping agility of a bullfrog (1.71 meters per second) but short of the vertical jumping agility of the galago (2.24).
“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,” said Duncan Haldane, a robotics Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkeley, who led the work. Haldane is a student in the Biomimetic Millisystems Lab of Ronald Fearing, a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences.
Salto’s design is based on the power modulation used by the galago. Power modulation is an adaptation found in natural systems (and designed into some robotic systems) that increases the peak power available for jumping by storing muscular energy in stretchy tendons.
Inside Salto, a motor drives a spring, which loads via a leg mechanism to create the kind of crouch seen in the galago. By using power modulation, Salto doesn’t need to wind up before a jump. This allows for the bot to jump and jump again.
Salto achieved 78 percent of the vertical jumping agility of a galago. Because of motor power limits, the best untethered robot before Salto had a vertical jumping agility of only 55 percent of a galago.
“By combining biologically inspired design principles with improved engineering technology, matching the agile performance of animals may not be that far off,” Fearing said.
Salto weighs 100 grams (3.5 ounces), is 26 centimeters (10.2 inches) tall when fully extended, and can jump up to one meter. Salto’s maximum jump height was roughly 1.008 meters (3.3 ft). For the wall jump, Salto attained an average height gain of approximately 1.21 meters (3.97 ft). Other robots can jump higher than Salto in a single leap.