The RHex robot is shown at the University of Pennsylvania. Researchers at the university have given the new robot a leg up on its ancestors by outfitting it with jumping and climbing abilities. (Matt Rourke/AP)

A new robot has a leg up on earlier models now that researchers have figured out how to make it jump and climb — something that may make it useful for tricky military missions.

The RHex (pronounced “rex”) robot project began about 15 years ago when researchers asked what it would take for robots to move over rugged terrain as well as animals do.

“You look at any machine that’s been built today, and almost any animal that you can imagine will outperform that machine,” said University of Pennsylvania engineering professor Daniel Koditschek, who built RHex with doctoral student Aaron Johnson.

Johnson developed devices that allow the robot to jump over gaps and holes in terrain that other robots would fall into. RHex can also maneuver onto platforms more than four times its height.

Other engineering professors, including the University of Michigan’s Jessy Grizzle, are impressed.

“Those are the things that are just kind of blowing our minds,” he said.

— Associated Press