A robot called GoQBot, designed by Hual-Tin Lin from Tufts University, was inspired by a caterpillar. We have seen other robots inspired by nature, like Stanford’s gecko inspired robot, but most are made of hard materials, like hard metal or plastic.
GoQBot is soft, made out of silicone rubber and, like the caterpillars, it can curl up and shoot out very fast.
Analyzing the whole body kinematics and 2D ground reaction forces at the robot ground anchor reveals about 1G of acceleration and more than 200 rpm of angular velocity.
With a robot like this, of course the research was funded in part by DARPA. Click through for a video of all a the rolling action.