Disney's research department has come up with an odd-looking robot that they call "Stickman." The name derives from the fact that it has no arms, legs or head. It is essentially just a folding stick. However, Stickman is capable of a variety of flips thanks to some sophisticated onboard hardware and programming.

It bends at just two points, simulating a human acrobat's tucks during an aerial somersault. It has a laser range finder and a six-axis inertial measurement device. The components, along with computer algorithms allow it to calculate its precise position in the air and adjust its tuck on the fly.

“Stickman emulates the behavior of human performers using a very limited set of sensing and actuation capabilities,” the researchers explain in a recently published paper titled Stickman: Towards a Human Scale Acrobatic Robot. “It is able to successfully perform several different somersaulting stunts by changing initial orientation and the timing of tuck, release, and untuck.”

Stickman demonstrated its abilities in the lab performing single and double backflips. The researchers hope to build more advanced sensing equipment and possibly add other limbs for more elaborate stunts.

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