SALTO – Berkeley’s leaping robot

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Roboticists at the University of California, Berkeley have created a cute jumping robot that’s the best ever at vertical leaping, putting human parkour enthusiasts and ninja assassins to shame.

Salto (for saltatorial locomotion on terrain obstacles) can leap in the air and then spring off a wall to propel itself even higher, Shinobi-style. Despite being just over 10 inches tall when fully extended, Salto can jump from a stationary position to a height of one meter (39 inches).

But the robot’s superpower is its ability to perform multiple vertical jumps in a row like a cyborg Jackie Chan. Theoretically, with tall enough walls and an infinite power supply, Salto could jump its way out of the atmosphere (though it’s probably not designed to operate for long at the frigid temperatures it would encounter along the way).

The robot’s design was based on observations of the galago, or bush baby. One of nature’s best vertical jumpers, the galago is able to jump five times in just four seconds to gain a total of almost 28 feet.

“Animals adapted specifically for jumping have this kind of super-crouch posture,” explains UC Berkeley roboticist Duncan Haldane in the below video. “The longer they stay in a crouch, the more energy they can transfer into their tendons and the more energy they can return for jumping. So we built into Salto the capability for a super-crouch.”


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