Robots are pretty limited when it comes to getting around. Got a set of wheels? Well, hopefully there's no stairs between point A and B. Legs? That's a start, but robot legs require balance and present all kinds of problems. This robot doesn't need any of that fancy stuff: it just constantly tumbles end over end, and it's surprisingly effective.
Developed at the University of Minnesota's Center for Distributed Robotics, "Aquabot," as it's called, has two little arms on either side of it that flip it's brick-like body end-over-end as it gets around. It's definitely not graceful — it looks a lot like what would happen if your router tried to crawl across the floor.
Still, this tumbling motion — coupled with a rugged body, mind you — allows Aquabot to overcome all kinds of obstacles, from shallow stairs to bumpy landscapes. Of course, Aquabot wouldn't be "Aquabot" if it didn't get wet, too, and the little tumbler enjoys quite a bit of control underwater as it can manage its ballast and sink, rise or even float in place at a certain depth.
So, why would you want a tumbling, amphibious robot? Well, it's still mostly in the planning phases, but the robot could be used to cheaply explore underwater environments, both at the bottom of a river, sea or ocean as well as at various depths.
Check the robot taking on some unworried ducks in the video below.