Humans take a lot for granted, and the way we walk is no exception. It takes the coordination of over 600 muscles to help us traverse a rock-strewn path or a hill covered in tree roots. But for a robot, walking on unforgiving surfaces—whether a sandy shoreline or a rocky Martian terrain—is a herculean task.
But researchers from University of California San Diego discovered that robots can really kick it into high gear if you outfit them with a set of boots. Using latex and coffee grounds, the team has developed flexible feet that allow a robot to move up to 40 percent more quickly on rough surfaces, including wood chips, pebbles, and hopefully future extraterrestrial surfaces.