According to a team of engineers at the University of Bath, "jumping is a good way to move over rough terrain, and is considerably easier to design than walking." PhysOrg.com reports that this is why they've designed two jumping robots inspired by animals. They think that their two new robots, Jollbot and Glumper, will help astronauts to during future space missions. As one researcher said, "the cost per kilogram of launching something into space is very large, so jumping robots, which are likely to be light in weight to maximize their own performance, are ideally suited from that perspective." Of course, such robots would also be useful to explore any other places involving traversing rough terrains such as volcanoes.
Above is a picture of Jollbot, which consists of metal hoop springs forming a 300 mm diameter sphere. When jumping, it raises its center of gravity by 0.22 m and clears a height of 0.18 m. (Credit: Centre for Biomimetic and Natural Technologies, University of Bath)
PhysOrg.com adds that "Jollbot (which gets its name from its combined jumping and rolling motion) has a skeletal structure made of semi-circular hoop springs. The central axis is equipped with a battery pack, servos and a radio receiver. When compressed, the springs hold energy that, when released in an instant, provide lift to the robot."
And as you can see above, Glumper has an octahedral shape, with four 'legs' that each comprise two 500 mm lengths of tube articulating around torsion spring 'knees'. It is able to raise its center of gravity by 1.60 m and clears a height of 1.17 m. (Credit: Centre for Biomimetic and Natural Technologies, University of Bath)
PhysOrg.com adds that "Glumper (named for being a glider and jumper) performed even better than Jollbot. Glumper's four long 'legs' each have a spring 'knee,' and thin membranes attached to the legs serve as wings which the robot can use to glide after jumping."
These two robots have been designed at The Centre for Biomimetic and Natural Technologies at the University of Bath. Here, the researchers explain why jumping is a good way to move over rough terrain. "The main advantage is that it can use stored elastic energy, so that low-grade energy can be gathered, e.g. using solar cells, and stored in a spring (probably the most effective and least leaky method of storage of energy). We are currently building a monopod design. We are also looking at the possibility of having wings which can be spread at the top of the jump so that the range can be increased."
The research about these two robots will be published in the September 2007 issue of the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics under the name "Jumping robots: a biomimetic solution to locomotion across rough terrain" (Volume 2, Number 3, September 2007, published online on June 22, 2007). Here is a link to the abstract from which you'll be able to reach the worth-reading full paper (PDF format, 18 pages, 1.54 MB). The researchers also have published some multimedia enhancements, including some pictures and videos. The two photos above come from this gallery.
Sources: Lisa Zyga, PhysOrg.com, July 6, 2007; and various websites
You'll find related stories by following the links below.