The Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI), part of Japan’s Ministry of Defense and roughly an analogue to America’s DARPA, recently released information on one of the new devices being worked on at their Advanced Technology Development Center: the 手投げ式偵察ロボット, or Thrown Reconnaissance Robot.
About the size and shape of a hand grenade, this device is designed to be thrown into buildings that may be too dangerous for soldiers to investigate themselves. Once inside, the device opens up to reveal a small camera, which can then relay what it sees to the soldiers waiting outside using a hand-held viewer. The robot can also be driven and steered throughout the building (though stairs will likely pose a problem), while the camera continues to transmit a stable image.
Left: The remote viewscreen; Center: the robot in its carried and thrown state; Right: the robot in its traveling state, with drive wheels extended and camera exposed.
The test video below shows how well it can steer around obstacles and maintain a clear, steady camera image. [Note: the audio in this video is mostly static, so I recommend turning the sound off.]
According to TRDI, the concept behind this design is to develop robots that are compact and lightweight enough that soldiers can carry them as part of their standard equipment. I would imagine that making them sturdy and reliable enough to handle being thrown around would also greatly improve the battlefield utility of future robot designs.