Cats are excellent jumpers, as anyone who’s come home to find their pet on top of the refrigerator can attest. So it’s probably no surprise that scientists are trying to replicate their bouncy back legs so that robots, too, can acrobatically launch themselves onto the top shelf of your closet.
In order to better study the way felines’ hind limbs work, Japanese researchers built a robotic set of kitty legs. This legs-only robot’s structure mimics the musculature and tendon structure of cats’ hind legs, and it can jump 1.3 times its own height. (If this doesn’t sound that impressive at first glance, think of a 6-foot-tall man jumping almost 8 feet straight up.) The ‘bot can jump even on uneven surfaces without losing its balance or height.
Robotic animals are all the rage these days. MIT’s robotic cheetah can essentially compete in hurdling. Boston Dynamics’ robotic dog Spot can act collectively with its robot-pack. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency hopes that these type of agile, fast robots inspired by the animal kingdom will one day be able to aid in combat, but in this case, the robotic half-cat can also help scientists better understand real animals. Having to recreate a cat’s legs from scratch helps researchers figure out what exactly makes feline physiology work.