This is the coolest, and most frightening, thing you’ll see all day. A group of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have taught their robot, an adorable little guy named RHex, how to run, jump, and climb in quick succession.
Why is this a big deal? Because up to now we’ve seen robots that can do one of these things, but most are unable to perform these actions in a rapid sequence. Animals can do it. So can people. Up till now, this has been one of the things that set us apart from our inevitable mechanical oppressors. Well, now that gap is being bridged, and we’re one step closer to our doom as a species.
Watching RHex leap and flip and climb is pretty damn impressive for what looks like a giant cell phone with legs. It’s especially impressive because this isn’t a tiny machine. The version the UPenn team recently unveiled at the 2013 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation weighs 6.7 kilograms (14.8 lbs) and is more than 51 centimeters (20 inches) long. Even with these dimensions, RHex has a vertical standing leap of 30 cm (200% its standing height), can use a double leap to clear more than 60 cm, perform a climbing double lead onto a 29 cm ledge, and jump up and grab onto a desk that is 73 cm tall.
Watching RHex perform all of these feats is both amazing and terrifying, and with the springy, c-shaped legs, the possibilities for future developments are off the charts.