Robots are capable of many things these days, but jumping like a frog generally isn't one of the first that comes to mind, however a machine in development in Japan is the first capable of doing just that.

Mowgli, a robot created by engineers at the University of Tokyo, is able to leap vertically about 50cm into the air and has been seen jumping onto and off chairs and other objects.

Grabbing air

Previous robots using motors to drive their legs have only ever managed to get a few millimetres off the ground - Mowgli makes a much greater leap by virtue of having artificial muscles driven by compressed air.

The robot, which is 1.2m tall and looks like a pair of legs sawn off at the waist, has other tricks in its repertoire too. It can perform the vital task of jumping down again from whatever it finds itself atop and can even kick a football.

Mowgli - the fictional name created by Rudyard Kipling to mean 'frog' - is likely to be joined by other, similarly agile mechanoids in the near future as the university team pursues its goal [Subscription link] of developing robots flexible enough to act as caregivers to humans.