Jollbot is a bouncing spherical robot developed by Rhodri Armour, a PhD student at the University of Bath. Jollbot presents a unique solution to the problem of navigating rough terrain here on Earth - and on other planets.
Take a look at this Jollbot video for a better look at its unique rolling jumping gait.
(Jollbot robot video)
Jollbot is a spherical cage that can deform to perform jumping maneuvers; it can also roll in any direction when the terrain permits it. Mr. Armour explains the general idea:
"Others in the past have made robots that jump and robots that roll; but we’ve made the first robot that can do both.
“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.
“We’ve made a robot that jumps in a similar way to the grasshopper, but uses electrical motors to slowly store the energy needed to leap in its springy skeleton.
“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.”
Science fiction fans have been prepared for this potential future. The Rovers from the late 1960's sci-fi television series The Prisoner were security balls of various sizes.
(The Rover seeks its prey)
In the television show, the Rovers were living creatures modeled to some extent on blowfish. They could alter their size and were equipped with toxins that could incapacitate prisoners who tried to escape (they would give chase to the fastest moving living creature). They could run faster than a man, just like the Rotundus robot. They also served as eyes and ears for the Village monitors. They were adapted for different environments, including undersea use.
It is interesting to note that Rhodri Armour plans to include a skin on the surface of Jollbot. He describes it as a "stretchy skin covered in solar cells on the outside of the robot, so it could power itself, and robotic control sensors to enable it to sense its environment."