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Lemur-Like African Primate Galago Inspires Design Of Fast Leaping Robot

7 December 2016, 8:05 am EST By Allan Adamson Tech Times
The galago, a lemur-like primate found in Africa, inspired the designs of the new robot named SALTO. What are the abilities and potential applications of this new robot?  ( Stephen McNally | UC Berkeley )

The field of robotics long been inspired by the movements of animals like snakes and bugs. Now, engineers have yet again looked at the animal kingdom to create a new robot with an exceptional vertical jumping agility.

Roboticists from the University of California Berkeley said that to date, the small robot is the most vertically agile machine created. It can perform several vertical jumps in a row and spring on and off a wall.

Inspired By Lemur-Like African Primate

The robot was modeled after the galago, a lemur-like primate found in Africa. The animal has a tremendous amount of energy in its tendons, which allows it to jump five times in just four seconds, leaping to heights reaching 27.9 feet.

Unlike other creatures that need to spend time to gather enough energy for jumping, the galago can leap to great heights on demand.

Duncan Haldane, from the University of California at Berkeley, and colleagues mimicked galago's quick jumping ability when they created the new robot named Salto, for "saltatorial locomotion on terrain obstacles."

The engineers designed Salto in such a way that, just like the galago, it uses a crouched position to store up energy in its leg mechanism. The motorized spring action stores energy that launches the robot when released. The mechanism can also quickly reload and readily release fresh energy as soon as Salto lands.

Vertical Jumping Agility

The researchers came up with a new metric to describe the galago's leaping ability, which they called "vertical jumping agility." It measures the height reached, divided by the amount of time spent to complete one jump.

The galago had the highest vertical jumping agility among animals at 2.24 meters per second, which is twice that of earlier robots. Salto's vertical jumping agility was recorded at 1.75 meters per second, which is inferior compared with the African primate. This, however, is already 56 percent better compared with the ability of the next best robot.

"Because of motor power limits, the best current robot has a vertical jumping agility of only 55 percent of a galago. Through use of a specialized leg mechanism designed to enhance power modulation, we constructed a jumping robot that achieved 78 percent of the vertical jumping agility of a galago," the researchers reported in their paper, which was published in the journal Science Robotics.

Potential Application

Haldane and colleagues hoped that the vertical agility of the new robot will inspire the development of robots that can scale piles of rubble, which could be handy during search and rescue missions.

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