Who says that PhD students don't do anything interesting?
Rhodri Armour, a PhD student from the University of Bath, is doing exactly that. He went off and created a new breed of robot. The new robot has been nicknamed the Jollbot. Jollbot that can both roll across the smooth ground and hop like a cricket over rough terrain. The robot could in the future be used for space exploration or to map deep caves.
The jump would be a boon to robots designed for space
exploration because they can move over rough terrain more easily. Robots with legs
are generally very complex, expensive to build and control, and
encounter problems if they fall over. Wheels are a simpler solution to
this, but are limited by the size of obstacles they can overcome.
The ‘Jollbot’ is shaped like a spherical cage which can roll in any
direction, giving it the manoeuvrability of wheels without the problem
of overturning or getting stuck in potholes. The robot is also flexible and small, weighing less than a
kilogramme, meaning it’s not damaged when landing after jumping and is
therefore less expensive than conventional exploration robots. This means that you can send out a large number of them to map an area quickly.
As the creator explained this method is also an efficient use of energy. “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... 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."
All real world uses aside, I want one, just to mess with my dogs.