German researchers have created tiny, soft robots that can jump, swim and crawl like a caterpillar — all while carrying cargo.

The four-millimetre-long magnetically controlled soft robot with multiple locomotion styles could one day be used in healthcare to deliver drugs to targeted areas or in minimally invasive surgery, according to engineers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems.

Researcher Metin Sitti and colleagues say their magnetically-controlled silicone device can use locomotive styles including rolling and jumping, depending on terrain.

The device can transition from swimming through liquids to moving on solid unstructured surfaces without physical intervention and can pick up cargo, transport it and deposit it elsewhere.

More details are available in a new paper, published in the journal Nature.

Video demonstrations can be seen below.