The Tokyo University of Technology have created the Swumanoid, a human-like swimming robot that they believe could one day be used to patrol beaches and save swimmers in distress (think of it as part Robocop, part David Hasselhoff!).  The Swumanoid was developed using 3D mapping software which allowed the Japanese team to reproduce how humans swim using motors and servos, instead of bones and muscles.

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The robot is still in the development phase, but it already has a swimming pace of 0.64 metres per second, which is about a third as quick as 100m world record pace. In addition to its life-saving abilities, the Swumanoid could be used to help train Olympic swimmers and provide information as to what are the most efficient ways to move through the water. Due to the robot’s ability to never get tired, the research team would simply have to secure motion-sensing pads to it and it would perfectly repeat actions over and over again – unlike human swimmers who get tired.

“In research on swimming, one problem is, it’s hard to know how much propulsive force the hands create during a stroke. There have been attempts to measure such things using actual swimmers, but it’s hard to attach sensors to the hands of an actual swimmer. Also, a person can’t repeat exactly the same movement many times,” said team researcher Motomu Nakashima to Diginfo TV.

The Swumanoid was based on the physique of a human swimmer which was mapped using a 3D scanner. These measurements were then used to build the robot, which contains 20 waterproof, computer-controlled motors to provide the swimming motion.

The robot can also perform a variety of strokes. In addition to performing the front crawl, the Swumanoid is also capable of the backstroke. However, it will need new limbs if it is to perform the butterfly and breast stroke efficiently.

The life-saving potential of the robot has already attracted the attention of the Australians, who are always looking for new innovations in beach safety. Speaking to Australian news reporters, Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) CEO Brett Williamson said the Swumanoid could one day be seen on the country’s beaches.

“We’re always looking at new technology,” he said. “There’ll always be a human element but we shouldn’t say no to anything, including robots. Our goal is to get more beaches under guard … and we can do that more effectively with new technology.”

Click below to watch Swumanoid in action.

+ Tokyo University of Technology