Disney Research Develops Backflipping Robot

The field of robotics is constantly expanding to simulate all manner of animal and insect locomotion, but some scientists are developing machines to replicate the more complex aspects of movement that are uniquely human — gymnastics. A team of scientists over at Disney Research have recently released a publication that details the operation and design of their new backflipping robot. While at this stage the robot may not look like the animatronic circus-droid you may be envisioning, the basics of the design are pretty impressive. Aptly dubbed "Stickman" by the Disney Research team, the robot is essentially a 7-foot-tall pole with three segments, a power source, a compressed air tank and pistons, three laser rangefinders, and adjustable mass.  Stickman's height was chosen to simulate a human gymnast with their arms fully extended over their head. The robot has the ability to properly gauge its relation to the ground using the rangefinders, then adjust its path accordingly by "tucking" and "untucking" from the point of release through its full swing to land safely on its back. While we may not be seeing fully animatronic big top performances in any Disney parks in the near future, using physics to accurately study and simulate gymnastic feats could just be the first step to more complex development of highly specialized robots.
Source/Images: Disney Research