Sand Flea, the jumping robot, seen in a screen grab from a video uploaded… (Boston Dynamics / You Tube )
You are going to watch this video of Sand Flea, a robot developed by Boston Dynamics, and for a few seconds you are going to be bored.
After all, Sand Flea isn't much to look at — just an 11 pound robot with large plastic wheels that don't look hi-tech or expensive, and all the robot does at first is move noisily over what appears to be a parking lot — much like a remote-control car.
But then Sand Flea comes to a wall, and instead of swerving away or ramming itself against the vertical surface over and over again, Sand Flea stops, gets up on its back two wheels and fires a piston that allows it to spring up and over the wall. And now those wheels make sense, because they allow Sand Flea to bounce without anything breaking on its landing. After one backward somersault, Sand Flea is ready to go again.
But wait. The video isn't over yet. The camera pans back and we see that Sand Flea is now facing a much higher wall — at least a full story tall. No, he wouldn't. He couldn't. But he does! Once again he raises himself up and springs to the top of the wall.
It's a thrilling moment.
The video was uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday by Boston Dynamics — the Massachusetts-based engineering company behind Robo-Cheetah, the fastest robot on four legs, and RHex, an all-terrain robot that scuttles like an insect through sand, mud, over logs, through water, and even up stairways.
Boston Dynamics notes that Sand Flea can jump 30 feet into the air, and explains that an on-board stabilization system keeps it oriented during its flight, which helps control landings.
Funding for the development of Sand Flea was provided by the U.S. Army's Rapid Equipping Force, and CNET reports that the Army plans to send nine Sand Fleas to Afghanistan for further testing.