We present a task-centered formal analysis of the relative power of several robot designs, inspired by the unique properties and constraints of micro-scale robotic systems. Our task of interest is object manipulation because it is a fundamental prerequisite for more complex applications such as micro-scale assembly or cell manipulation. Motivated by the difficulty in observing and controlling agents at the micro-scale, we focus on the design of boundary interactions: the robot’s motion strategy when it collides with objects or the environment boundary, otherwise known as a bounce rule. We present minimal conditions on the sensing, memory, and actuation requirements of periodic “bouncing” robot trajectories that move an object in a desired direction through the incidental forces arising from robot-object collisions. Using an information space framework and a hierarchical controller, we compare several robot designs, emphasizing the information requirements of goal completion under different initial conditions, as well as what is required to recognize irreparable task failure. Finally, we present a physically-motivated model of boundary interactions, and analyze the robustness and dynamical properties of resulting trajectories.