Two leaps forward for robot locomotion

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Science  31 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6247, pp. 472-473
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac7882

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The designers of mobile robots often take their inspiration from animals. In recent years, examples have included SmartBird, a flying robot that is modeled on a herring gull; BigDog, a rough-terrain robot that can walk, run, climb, and carry heavy loads; and the humanoid Asimo. With the exception of SmartBird, however, these robots can only move horizontally and over land. Being able to cope with different terrains remains a key challenge for robotics. Perhaps no two terrains are more different than land and water, and yet several animals can move equally well on either (1). On page 517 of this issue, Koh et al. describe a robot that is so at home on the water surface that it can leap to heights of 14 cm without piercing the surface (2).