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This Robot Looks Like a Pancake, Jumps Like a Maggot

By The New York Times

December 14, 2021

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If a pancake could dream, it might long for legs so it could jump off your breakfast plate in pursuit of a better, unchewed life.

But legs, it turns out, are not necessary for something as flat as a flapjack to hop around. A group of scientists has designed a tortilla-shaped robot that can jump several times per second and higher than seven times its body height of half a centimeter. They report that the robot, which is the size of a squished tennis ball and weighs about the same as a paper clip, nimbly performs these feats without any semblance of feet. Their research was published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.

Shuguang Li, a roboticist at Harvard who was not involved with the research, called the new robot "a clever idea" and "an important contribution to the soft robotics field."

Many terrestrial robots, meaning ones at home on the ground rather than in air or water, move by rolling or walking. But the ability to jump can help a terrestrial robot traverse new spaces and navigate rough terrain; sometimes it's more efficient for a robot to jump over an obstacle than to go around it, Rui Chen, a researcher at Chongqing University in China and an author of the paper, wrote in an email.

From The New York Times
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