Jianguo Zhao, a PhD student at Michigan State, has developed a robot that can jump in the air, come down, collect itself, and jump again — and it's getting better at it. The third generation of Zhao's robot can jump 36 inches in the air, using its frog-like legs to propel itself, and though it can't land on its feet it's able to use a kickstand to quickly prop itself back up. The little guy can also steer itself in order to stay pointed in the same direction, so it can jump continually toward its target. Everything is done with a single pager motor, which means the robot can be seriously tiny (this one weighs just 55 grams) and surprisingly efficient, only needing a charge every 285 jumps.

Jumping is a super-efficient way to get over and around obstacles, especially those that ground-based robots couldn't surmount, and Zhao says that search and rescue, environmental monitoring, and surveillance are among the many possible uses for the robot. Though it's not quite ready for practical use (it can't yet jump off uneven terrain, for instance), we might not be far off from having these kangaroo-like robots out in the wild.