Leave it to two of the world’s brainiest universities to figure out how to walk on water.
On July 30, Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering announced in a press release that researchers from Harvard and Seoul National University (South Korea) have developed a robotic insect which mimics the water-walking capabilities of an insect known as the “water strider”.
Researchers used hundreds of videos of water striders to determine the mechanics involved in being able to leap from dry land onto water and vice versa.
Research paper co-author Je-Sung Koh lauded the insect’s ability to use “the maximum amount of force” without breaking the water’s surface tension.
Using its legs to push down on water, the natural water strider exerts the maximum amount of force just below the threshold that would break the water’s surface.
In a video released by the team of researchers, the man-made water striders can be seen in action, with their slightly curved legs pushing against the surface of a small tank of water, launching the robot’s yellow body upward and away from the water’s surface.
Quoting the Wyss press release, Engadget reporter Mariella Moon said the tiny robots can perform “real strider-like jumps.”
It can exert force equivalent to 16 times its body weight without breaking the water’s surface and perform real strider-like jumps.
The Wyss press release quoted Seoul National University professor Kyu Jin Cho as having said the discoveries made during the development of the tiny lab-created water striders can be useful for engineers who want to develop robots who are able to perform “extreme maneuvers” on water.
We can learn from this kind of physical intelligence to build robots that are similarly capable of performing extreme maneuvers without highly–complex controls or artificial intelligence.
Moon offered her own theories about the future of water-based robots, saying the water strider technology could be useful in water-based search operations.