For those of you who thought you could escape to the water during the robopocalypse, you thought wrong. Researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology are working on a robot that can accurately mimic a human swimmer's whole-body motion. Called Swumanoid — an awkward portmanteau of "swimming humanoid" - the swimbot is intended to measure water resistance in a way that's superior to using humans.
Watch Swumanoid in action by clicking on the above video.
The problem, you see, is repeatability. Unlike us inferior and consistently unpredictable humans, Swumanoid can swim in exactly the same way every time. This is important for scientists who are working to measure water resistance. Swumanoid is designed to perform in the exact way the researchers want it to, allowing them to repeat tests and make the necessary adjustments to better understand water resistance and propulsion. It is hoped that the insights will help in the development of performance-enhancing swimwear.
Researchers Chung Changhyun and Motomu Nakashima created the robot by performing a 3D body scan of a real person. They then built a 50% scale model using parts manufactured by a 3D printer. In order to survive submersion, Swumanoid was outfitted with 20 waterproof motors. And so that he wouldn't drown, the researchers programmed him with all the requisite swimming motions, including front crawl, breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, dog paddling, and even the ability to tread water.
Changhyun and Nakashima hope to present their findings at the Aero Aqua-Biomechanisms Symposium (ISABMEC 2012) in Taiwan this August.
As for you swimmers out there terrified by the prospect of being run down by a swimbot, you can relax. Well, at least for now. It takes Swumanoid two-and-a-half minutes to swim just a hundred meters. But the researchers have said they would eventually like to build a life-sized robot with even more degrees of freedom. So you better start your laps at the pool now.