Scientists have created a “soft robot” that combines the speed and accuracy of rigid ones with the resilience of a softer material.
The 3D printed robot — which can jump six times its height — can inflate its legs to angle itself then uses combustion to fire itself into the air in a given direction.
It also offers a massive leap for robotics in general, where the ultimate aim is to create robots that are completely soft.
Today, many parts — like the batteries and circuit-boards — are still rigid, which makes them more susceptible to damage.
The new robot comprises of three legs plus a soft, central base. Housed above that is the rigid core in which sits the rigid parts.
Using soft materials means they could work in areas where they may be damaged easily, or need to squeeze through spaces.
As well as being more resilient out in the wild, soft robots are also safer for humans who are interacting with them.
The fact they can jump without breaking also means they would be able to cover ground much faster than tradition robots.
The 3D printed robot has a rigid core which houses the operating system and batteries which then transitions outwards into a soft exterior.
A potential use could be as a mine-scoping device in war-zones, or in disaster zones. Using soft materials also paves the way for more human-like robots in the future.
The robot was revealed in a paper in the journal Science, written by a team led by the Charles River Professor of Engineering at Harvard, Robert J Wood, and Michael Tolley from the University of California, San Diego.
The fact that it was created using 3D printing means that the costs of production remains low.
The next step would be to create a robot that is totally soft, including the components like the batteries and motors inside it.