Humans can be great acrobats, but what about Disney robots? Disney Research has one such human-scale robot — called Stickman, because it’s literally a robotic stick — that is capable of aerial acrobatics, like backflips.

Just as certain human inventions take after nature (like body armor), it seems as if robots can take after humans. During a full backflip maneuver, Stickman swings from a ceiling-mounted wire 19.6 feet (six meters) above ground, tucks into a ball at peak height, and executes the stunt.

Stretched out, Stickman measures seven feet tall or as the Disney Research paper puts it, “to approximate the height of a human stunt performer with arms raised over his or her head” — although, it’s worth noting most gymnasts are nowhere near seven feet tall.

Inertial motion sensing, a trio of laser rangefinders, and computer vision enable Stickman to pull off these stunts, but also ensure its safety by landing onto a mat.

You can see Stickman successfully backflip (and also fail) in the video below.

It’s not much now, but the possibility of robot gymnastics and parkour is, in fact, becoming a reality. After all, Boston Dynamics’ humanoid robot performed a successful backflip last year.



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