The robot, who has been dubbed Jollbot, has two distinct forms of movement. It can both jump over obstacles and roll over smoother terrain. Why this is unique, well, the creator of the robot explained: “Others in the past have made robots that jump and robots that roll; but we’ve made the first robot that can do both.”
This grasshopper like movement is only one type of jumping that are found in nature. Each one has its own benefits and drawbacks but this form of jumping is a good choice for robots because of its storage capacity. “In nature there are two main types of jumping: hopping, like a kangaroo, which uses its fine control and direct muscle action to propel it along; and ‘pause and leap’, such as in a grasshopper, which stores muscle energy in spring-like elements and rapidly releases it to make the jump.”
Now that we know how it jumps, how does it roll?
The ‘Jollbot’ is shaped like a spherical cage which can roll in any direction, giving it the movement of wheels without the problem of overturning or getting stuck in potholes. This also means that the robot is also flexible and small, weighing less than a kilogram, meaning it’s not damaged when landing after jumping and is therefore less expensive than conventional robots.
How is the jump powered, without weighty batteries?
“Before jumping, the robot squashes its spherical shape. When it is ready, it releases the stored energy all at once to jump to heights of up to half a metre.”
But that is not to say that Armour has not given thought to alternate sources of power for the robot. “Future prototypes could include a stretchy skin covered in solar cells on the outside of the robot, so it could power itself, and robotic control sensors to enable it to sense its environment.”
The robot could in the future be used to map places like caves, or even to explore distant worlds.