This Tiny Robot Scales Walls With Spider-Man Style Agility

Shelby Rogers

Meet SALTO, University of California Berkeley's high-jumping new robot.

SALTO (which stands for saltatorial locomotion on terrain obstacles), is the most vertically agile robot created to date.

The name "saltatorial" comes from zoological studies and refers to limbs adapted for leaping. To create the ultimate leaping robot, the researchers studied the animal kingdom's most vertically agile creature, the galago (aka African bush babies). The galago can jump 27.9 feet in just four seconds after five jumps. It stores energy in its tendons to jump to heights its muscles alone cannot achieve.

In one jump, SALTO jumps higher than most humans. However, the robot's ability to take multiple vertical jumps makes it truly spectacular.

The researchers created a new metric with which to measure and compare SALTO's jumps. They defined it as the height something can reach in a single jump given earth's gravity.

 salto1[Image Source: UC Berkeley via YouTube]

“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.

SALTO's jumping ability came in at 1.75 meters per second. That surpases the jumping height of a bullfrog's 1.71 meters. However, it fell short of its inspiration galago at 2.24 meters.

The team also tested other leaping robotics against SALTO. The second highest vertical agility came from the Minitaur at 1.1 meters per second.

The SALTO also included the galago's tendon-loading ability, enabling the device to spring off of walls. A motor inside SALTO drives a spring. The spring then loads through a leg mechanism for its signature crouch. The power modulation means SALTO takes no time to wind up or prepare for a jump.

salto3[Image Source: UC Berkeley via YouTube]

SALTO managed to reach 78 percent of the galago's vertical jumping ability. Before SALTO, the best untethered robot's jumping ability came in at 55 percent of that of a galago.

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For Ronald Fearing, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, robotics could learn considerably from zoological studies.

“By combining biologically inspired design principles with improved engineering technology, matching the agile performance of animals may not be that far off,” Fearing said.

The researchers hope that one day SALTO and other vertically agile robots can be used to jump through rubble for search and rescue missions.

salto2[Image Source: UC Berkeley via YouTube]

You can find the entire study in the Science Robotics journal. The research was supported by the US Army Research Laboratory and also the National Science Foundation.

While SALTO has certainly made impressive leaps in robotics (pun intended), it has competition from other high-flying bots. The TAUB, a robot inspired by a grasshopper, can leap 3.2 meters (10.5 ft) in just one jump. TAUB has such a small frame that it's hard to see in this performance video.

Additionally, Carnegie Mellon University's GOAT robot focused on the power of the jump rather than its height. The GOAT team became largely inspired by the agility and power of a mountain goat. The researchers wanted to emulate a goat's leg structure.

SEE ALSO: Researchers Create Nylon Artificial Muscles for Robots

Via UC Berkeley

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