Check out TailBot, a 1-ounce, 3-inch bot designed by a team of students at Michigan State University. It doesn't look like much, but this little guy can perform some rather remarkable physical feats — and it uses a unique tail inspired by nature to get the job done.

TailBot is unprecedented in that it's the first miniature robot capable of three distinct physical capabilities, namely running, jumping, and aerial maneuvering. It's equipped with onboard energy, sensing, control, and wireless communication to allow for autonomous operation.


And it's the tail that gives this robot its special powers. In nature, tails allow for multi-modal locomotion. Similarly, TailBot can run on flat ground, jump to overcome large obstacles, and control its mid-air orientation when making its dramatic leaps.

"By actively swinging the tail in mid-air, we can control the robot's body angle to ensure a safe landing posture—landing on the ground with its side," writes lead designer Jianguo Zhao. "This tail can also make the robot stand up for the next jump or lie down for running."

Sure, but can it perform a perfect quadruple backflip?


Read the entire study: "Controlling Aerial Maneuvering of a Miniature Jumping Robot Using Its Tail" (pdf).