The autonomous cubes are covered in a soft silicone and weigh less than half a pound. The robotic cubes can hurl themselves into the air by using spring-loaded metal loops called “tongues.” A 3-inch-wide cube can jump 8 inches into the air, or more than twice its height. The soft exterior allows the cube to travel farther than a hard exterior would (because it bounces) causing it to double its distance.
The jumping cubes are described in a paper presented at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) [PDF] in October.
Scientists and engineers at MIT and elsewhere are working on a whole host of robots that can move over varied terrain and deal with inevitable falls, in the hopes that these automated task masters can one day be sent into disaster zones and treacherous locations (like Mars) to collect data, perform tasks, and perhaps build new structures. The CSAIL team hopes to give these cube-bots greater jumping power and equip them with cameras so they can be used to explore remote areas and rocky terrain.
[h/t: Popular Science]