Toyota (NYSE:TM), the world's No. 2 automaker, is now making great strides in another field: robotics. Earlier this week, the company announced that it had developed a robot leg capable of jumping like a human. At the present time, the device isn't capable of anything near Michael Jordon's vertical leap. Instead, at 1.6 inches, it's much nearer my own pathetic level.

Nevertheless, the development is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, it suggests that Toyota, which in 2004 announced that it was aiming to commercialize a humanoid robot by 2010 capable of helping elderly people live independently, is on schedule to meet this goal.

In Japan, which already has the world's oldest population, and in the U.S. -- where the first Baby Boomers are turning 60 this year -- this demographic represents a large, emerging, and affluent market.

Secondly, the development is more noteworthy than it sounds because small obstacles such as curbs have posed a greater barrier to the widespread adoption of robots than is generally recognized.

To the extent that Toyota's latest technological advancement can overcome such barriers, it will open up a host of new applications for robots in the factories and on battlefields around the world.

For instance, iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT) is already supplying robots to assist our soldiers in detecting roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just imagine the possible uses when they can also leap walls and jump up into window sills to peer around inside.

The third reason the news is significant is because it tells me that much of the research and work that Toyota has put into developing high-precision sensors for the automotive market -- in order to create collision avoidance systems and the like -- is now being transferred to its robotic division.

And this, in turn, tells me that Toyota, which is already poised to leap past General Motors (NYSE:GM) as the No. 1 automotive company in the near future, could also leap past other robotic manufacturers such as Honda (NYSE:HMC) and Sony (NYSE:SNE).

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Fool contributor Jack Uldrich is anxiously awaiting the creation of a robotic exoskeleton that can help him dunk a basketball. He owns stock in iRobot. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy .