A single-legged, hopping robot that slightly resembles a pogo stick has been created by experts at Disney Research in Pittsburgh. The research team – which includes, Zachary Batts, Joohyung Kim, and Katsu Yamane – say the robot can bounce 19 times in 7 seconds before toppling over.
A linear elastic actuator in parallel (LEAP) gives thrust to the robot's hopping power. The mechanism is a system of coil actuators, springs, and motors. Contrary to previous hopping bots, LEAP is self-contained, allowing for "an untethered, energetically autonomous single-legged hopping robot," according to the study.
The success of the hopping bot opens up a new perspective in the study of locomotion control algorithms.
"Single-legged robots have the simplest topology in the class of legged systems...[they] provide an ideal benchmark for actuators used in legged locomotion," the authors write. Studies in locomotion are imperative in the design of bipedal robots, bringing forth more humanoid creations with increased functionality. Life-like, easy-to-use prostheses for amputees could finally be underway.
The study concludes with a hint at the future's possible locomotion mechanisms:
"It can likely be used in other robot designs as well...We plan to redesign the LEAP mechanism to be more modular and compact for use in a multi-legged robot."