Scientists and engineers have been working hard over the past few years, it seems, to develop more robotics that mimic animal movement. From a robot cheetah to robot fish and even robot insects, these teams have successfully developed machines that can miraculously ape the abilities of animals.
Speaking of aping, the latest development was inspired by a primate, though it is probably one you have never heard of: the galago. Also known as a “bushbaby” this very small nocturnal primate has big eyes and an incredible jumping ability, particularly when you see that it needs very little preparation to make its impressive leaps.
But really? A galago? Why not an impala—which can easily soar more than 9 feet above the ground—or a kangaroo, right? Well, its the galago’s amazing ability to jump without much windup—which also means it can jump huge gaps at rapid pace—that interested scientists.
As such, University of California-Berkeley robotics PhD candidate Duncan Haldane (and his team) developed a one-legged robot they call Salto. Salto can jump five times in four seconds (from floor to wall, even) to reach a combined height of nearly 28 feet (roughly 8.5 meters).
In order to effectively compare Salto’s actual ability against real animals, the engineers developed a new metric for measuring vertical agility. This, they defined as the height a creature/object can reach within a single jump under the influence of Earth’s gravity (of course) multiplied by the frequency of successful jumps.
After all calculations, Salto’s robotic vertical jumping agility was determined to be 1.75 meters per second. This is higher than that of a bullfrog (which just missed the mark at 1.71 meters per second) but falls short of the impressive vertical jumping agility of the galago (a whopping 2.24 meters per second).
Haldane continues, “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.”
In essence, Salto can achieve about 78 percent of the vertical jumping agility of a galago. However, the limits of motor power actually reduces an untethered Salto to a vertical jumping agility rating to that of only 55 percent of a galago.
This study has been published in the scientific journal Robotics.