One Hop This Time

Disney answers the timeless question ‘can robots hop?’


The answer is ‘yes, 19 times.’

Three engineers at Disney Research Pittsburgh have published a paper sexily titled “Untethered One-Legged Hopping in 3D Using Linear Elastic Actuator in Parallel (LEAP),” along with a demonstration of their oddly hypnotic creation: a one-legged hopping robot.


Specifically, the paper explains, researchers were looking to create a more movable hopping robot, because “current and previous single-legged hopping robots are energetically tethered and lack portability.” In order to do their thing, previous hopping robots needed to be tied to something, or have an external power source, or sometimes both, which made them hard to lug around.

The Disney Research bot wasn’t an unmitigated success, but it was a step forward. The video demonstration released with the paper declares that the bot’s systems, which run off two compression springs tied to a motor and actuator, “can enable hopping for up to 19 hops.”

This was less hops than the researchers had hoped, but apparently, they aren’t being put off.

“While we fell short of our goal of continuous, indefinite hopping, we showed that such a gait is possible for an untethered robot for short periods of time,” they wrote in the paper’s conclusion. “In the future, we plan to implement many of the previously proposed changes. Furthermore, we plan to redesign the LEAP mechanism to be more modular and compact for use in a multi-legged robot.”

This will probably make it’s way into animatronics at a Disney theme park, but please feel free to join me in imagining a nightmarish future where Big Dog learns to jump.