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If Japan suddenly sweeps the board with Gold swimming medals at the next Olympics, may we advise spot-checks to ensure the competitors are human? For a team at the Tokyo University of Technology has created a robot which has perfected the back-stroke - except for the few occasions it goes a bit buggy and tries some freestyle swimming. The team, led by associate professor Motomu Nakashima, hopes that eventually robots like the 'Swumanoid' can act as robot lifeguards, patrolling our shores and helping swimmers in distress.
Apart from life-saving ambitions, Swumanoid is useful in helping research into swimming. It is difficult to secure motion-sensing pads to swimmers in the water, and it is also difficult for swimmers to perfectly repeat repetitive actions over and over.
But Swumanoid - bugs aside - can do this well, helping researchers measure various elements like the force required to propel swimmers through the water. The team created Swumanoid by using a 3D scanner to perfectly map a human swimmer's physique. These measurements were used to create the robot, with 20 waterproof, computer-controlled motors providing the swimming motion.
The robot can currently swim the backstroke and the front crawl, but he will need a new pair of legs before he can tackle the breast-stroke. However, with a pace of six metres per second, Swumanoid swims at just a third of the fast human world record.