Parkour Robots Might be the Future of Rescue Missions

Prayank

Labs at UC Berkeley have come up with a unique robot — SALTO — who can jump well over a metre though it is only 26cms tall (approximately 10 inches) and weighs 100 grams and the designers hope to write programmes that could help it navigate long distances and help in rescue missions.

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SALTO’s — acronym for Saltatorial Locomotion on Terrain Obstacles — design in inspired from Galago or bush monkey, which are small nocturnal primates who are the greatest jumpers, given their height, of the animal kingdom. A Galago can jump up to 1.75 metres in a single leap.

As Galago captures the title of the highest jumper among animals, SALTO does that among bots – pound to pound.

“The agility of the robot opens new pathways of locomotion that were not previously attainable. The researchers hope that one day this robot and other vertically agile robots can be used to jump around rubble in search and rescue missions,” writes Brett Israel, Media Relations Officer, University of California Berkeley.

Saltatorial is a word used by biologists to describe insects which have specialised limbs that enable them to jump to great heights. The robot can surpass obstacles by jumping over them or bouncing off them — as do the freestylers who practice Parkour — and he’s not bad at it too.

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The researchers believe that in the future, SALTO will be able to navigate paths — via human intervention, plotting a route — which are otherwise not possible.

The robot has one of the highest vertical jump agility, which is measured by researchers as the height achieved by a leap in a second against Earth’s gravity. SALTO’s vertical agility is 1.75 metres per second, which is higher than that of a bullfrog at 1.71 metres, but lower than that of a Galago, which has a vertical agility of 2.24 metres per second.

Watch SALTO in action here.

“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, who leads the research and is a robotics PhD candidate at UC Berkeley.

The researchers at UC Berkeley have tried to emulate the crouch and jump process of a Galago which gives its tendons extra power and has applied it in SALTO.

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The robot isn’t able to jump as high as a Galago due to the powering motors limitations, but future research will enable it to cover greater distances and make it through a series of simultaneous jumps too.

Although a distant dream which might be converted into reality at some point in the future, Salto’s ability haven’t quite been unearthed yet and its applications can be quite useful for us, given its small size.

Another robot known as TAUB can jump up to 10 feet, much higher than Salto, but it needs some time to generate power before a jump, while Salto can do consequents jumps without needing the time to recharge.

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Prayank

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Prayank

Bike enthusiast, traveller, ManUtd follower, army brat, word-smith; Delhi University, Asian College of Journalism, Cardiff University alumnus; a journalist breathing tech these days.