AI News, Tiny Robot Makes Big Jumps with Explosive Microrockets

Tiny Robot Makes Big Jumps with Explosive Microrockets

We've seen all kinds of crazy jumping robots, from humanoids to grasshoppers to soft and flexible spheres.

But when you start making small robots, like seriously small robots (on the millimeter scale), you have to find new ways to get them to jump, and the Army Research Laboratory has teamed up with the University of Maryland to develop a couple clever ideas.

To move, it relies on on the rapid conversion of stored chemical energy to gas in a chemical reaction, which is just a fancy way of saying either 'rocket motor' or 'controlled explosion.'

Stitching an array of about 100 of these engines together along the bottom of a microbot could allow for a whole series of jumps (and even jumps followed by mid-air rocket pulses to keep flying), ultimately resulting in a range of some 65 meters, which works out to be a staggering 16,000 times the length of the robot itself.

Speedy, springy robot 'Salto' catches some serious air

Its antics are like those of parkour athletes — people who bounce between buildings, vault and flip over railings and scramble up walls.

The palm-sized machine weighs just 100 grams (3.5 ounces) — or about as much as two large eggs.

The new bot can spring a meter (39 inches) off the ground in just 0.58 seconds. That’s about what a bullfrog can do, noted coauthor Duncan Haldane in a December 5 news conference.

Its authors, he says, “came up with a new idea and showed it really clearly.” Haldane’s bot was inspired by a tiny, saucer-eyed primate called the lesser galago.

That’s the ratio of maximum jumping height to the time it takes to complete a jump.  Before jumping, galagos hunker down in a kind of “supercrouch.” This stance lets them access more energy before they spring into a jump, Haldane said.

Salto joins a growing list of robots that hop off walls, spring off water or even launch themselves into the air with an explosion.

The Coolest and Most Terrifying Biomimetic Robots

Borrowing from the characteristics and abilities of insects, birds, fish and mammals, scientists and engineers have designed robots that can swim, jump, snuggle, and steal books.

Bright yellow and lithe, this robot salamander easily navigates both land and water – and can keep going, even if it loses a few body parts.

Described today in Science, the RoboBees each weigh 80 milligrams, have a wingspan of 3 centimeters, and flap their wings 120 times each second.

Unlike real flies, the robots’ wings are powered by a piezoelectronic activator – a type of ceramic strip that expands and contracts when electric current is applied.

Though the bees are still remotely controlled, the team is working on developing a tiny bee-brain that will guide the flying insects in their future adventures – some of which may include crop pollination, search-and-rescue operations, and environmental monitoring.

Developed by a team at Carnegie Mellon University, the SnakeBots can climb trees (and your leg), slither through pipes, swim, sidewind, corkscrew and coil – on a variety of terrains.

Their versatility makes these snakes – with names like 'Frostbite,' 'Spooky Snake,' and 'Molly' – ideal for investigating hard-to-reach places like caves, or the lower floors of a collapsed building.

Moving back and forth at five times per second, the faux whiskers tell the robot – called SCRATCHbot – when it's approaching objects.

In an earlier incarnation, headless BigDog the RoboMule merely stomped around, able to carry 340 pounds over rough terrain, uphill, going 4 miles per hour.

Together, the roboants work to find and learn the most efficient path through an obstacle course – much as real ants do, when they're on the move.

As more and more bots travel the same road, it becomes brighter and brighter, eventually helping direct the entire colony from point Ant to point Bot.

Inspiration: Ballistic caterpillars When threatened, some caterpillars will snap themselves into a wheel shape and roll away at astonishing speeds.

Made from pliant silicon rubber studded with shape memory coils, the 10-centimeter-long soft-bodied robot, called GoQBot, can curl into a ball and charge away in less than 100 milliseconds.

With their ability to blend into cityscapes, crawl under windowsills, and navigate hallways, these tiny soldiers pack a lethal punch into a very small amount of space.

PBS NOVA Making Stuff Smaller with captions

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