Efficient locomotion for minaiture robots is a hard task due to the “Size Grain Hypothesis” which simply describes how the rugocity of the environment increases as the size of the agent (robot in this case) decreases. That is the smaller the robot, the bigger the obstacles. To circumvent the inneficiencies of crawling, walking, or running for miniature robots, researchers at EPFL are exploring jumping as a more efficient approach (others have also developed jumping robots.)
The result of their efforts is a miniature jumping robot that weighs 7 grams and is only 5cm tall. Using a clever design, the researchers have created a prototype robot that can jump as high as 1.4 meters which is more than 27 times its own height. The new robot can jump an order of magnitude higher than all other existing jumping robots.
So, how does it work? The short description as given by the researchers in a recently published paper is the following.
It employs elastic elements in a four bar linkage leg system to allow for very powerful jumps and adjustment of the jumping force, take-off angle and force profile during the acceleration phase.
The following video shows the robot in action; the slow motion footage is worth its bandwidth in gold!