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Video: Swimming Robot Mimics Humans
6/27/2012

The half-scale swumanoid swimming robot incorporates 20 waterproof motors that are controlled by a computer to mimic the actions of human swimmers.   (Source: Tokyo Institute of Technology)
The half-scale swumanoid swimming robot incorporates 20 waterproof motors that are controlled by a computer to mimic the actions of human swimmers.
(Source: Tokyo Institute of Technology)

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Beth Stackpole
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A little "robotic" in its movements
Beth Stackpole   6/27/2012 8:00:46 AM
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The robot definitely mimics human form, but it still appears choppy in its movements--no where near as fluid as a human swimmer and not even remotely comparable to a competitive one. That said, I get the idea of applying the robot to aid in physical therapy exploration, but don't necessarily see how it would aid in helping competitive swimmers.

All of that said, between this and your earlier post this week on marine-inspired robots, there's definitely quite a lot of innovation and progress going on in this field. Thanks for sharing.

Dozer789
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Re: A little "robotic" in its movements
Dozer789   6/27/2012 8:58:43 AM
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You are right about it being choppy, it looks almost like the hand gets stuck under the body, i hope they can get these robots to be able to swim like humans.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: A little "robotic" in its movements
Ann R. Thryft   6/27/2012 1:04:05 PM
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I agree, the robot is not yet perfectly human in all its movements. But it's awfully close, and compared to previous efforts, this one's elegant and fluid. The main achievement isn't just the robot that demonstrates the SWUM model, but that model itself, to emulate all of the human motor movements accurately, get the "map" done, so they can then be refined even more. But first you've got to have the entire, accurate map. Once you have that accurate map, you can also use it plus the analysis to map human swimmers' individual movements and analyze them, presumably leading to greater efficiency.

Dozer789
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Rescue Mission
Dozer789   6/27/2012 2:49:51 PM
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This kind of a robot could be great for rescue missions in storms, becuase if it could be made it so that it could get itself back upright you could then send that out to rescue people.

     Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Rescue Mission
Ann R. Thryft   6/27/2012 3:32:04 PM
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Rescue robots are currently being developed mostly for use on land. Based on some other nautical robot designs, I'd guess that rescue robots developed for use in the water would not replicate the details of human anatomy or swimming movements, as the swumanoid does, since human swimming movements aren't the most efficient way to move through water. The swumanoid has been optimized for those last two functions, but rescue robots are optimized for speed and strength, such as lifting or pulling heavy objects. For example, the Hawkes Remotes T-Series is small, compact and provides enough torque to lift 220 lbs: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&itc=dn_analysis_element&doc_id=246206&image_number=11

RICKZ28
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Re: Rescue Mission
RICKZ28   6/28/2012 3:36:24 PM
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Having watched hundreds of lifeguard rescues using jet skis here on the Southern California beaches, I don't think any humanoid shape could match that performance.  Watch how jet skis take surfers out to huge waves during professional competition, then speed out of the way of the huge wave before it breaks.  Also, a skilled person paddling on a surfboard is faster than any human swimmer, as lifeguards also use surfboards for doing rescues.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Rescue Mission
Ann R. Thryft   6/29/2012 12:07:41 PM
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This research is aimed 100% at sports-related apps, as stated in the article (competitive swimmers, optimized swimsuit design for same). Not at anything as practical as search-and-rescue, or replacing lifeguards.

Isleguard
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Re: A little "robotic" in its movements
Isleguard   6/28/2012 9:24:45 AM
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Beth.   I agreee with you.  When I first saw the video, the first thing that I noticed was that the movement was choppy.   Why they didn't put sensors on a swimmer to provide a model is beyond me. 

The other thing that I noticed was that the arm movement was wrong.  You have to do two things at the same time which the robot seems to not be able to do.  You pull down one arm at the same time you move the second arm up.  It appears that they move the one arm up AND THEN move the other arm down and back.

I would bet that if they put it in water that it would sink which is why the video doesn't show the robot actually swimming.

gsmith120
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Swimming Robots???
gsmith120   6/27/2012 8:02:16 AM
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Great story Ann!!  That is so interesting and love the video.   If this robot has the ability to pick up things this would be great for underwater rescues. It would be nice to see some of the other robot teams work together to combine their specialty features into one robot.  

 Do you know what's the teams next step for this robot?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Swimming Robots???
Ann R. Thryft   6/27/2012 1:06:42 PM
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Thanks, gsmith120. That's an interesting idea, to combine these swimming abilities with some of the abilities of the robots shown in the nautical robot slideshow. The team stated that its next steps are to develop faster robots to better emulate competitive swimmer's movements and also to come up with swimwear optimized for high-speed swimming.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Swimming Robots???
Beth Stackpole   6/28/2012 6:36:02 AM
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Using the robot to enable competitive swimwear--that's likely to open up the can worms of too much reliance on technology and not enough on performance of the human body. Nevertheless, as Ann points out, the fact that they put all this energy into developing the full swimmer's body model is exciting and an effort that could have applicability in numerous places.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Swimming Robots???
Ann R. Thryft   6/28/2012 12:47:51 PM
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I think the point of optimized swimwear is to not slow down the competitive swimmer. Any clothing does so: it introduces drag. Regarding arm movements, it's important to remember that this hardware is a first effort, although the simulation software is not, and the researchers point out that getting the shoulder movement down was the hardest part, as it's the most complex. It's a WIP.

Jerry dycus
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Re: Swimming Robots???
Jerry dycus   6/28/2012 2:03:08 PM
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As someone who has spent more swimming hrs in the water than 1000 average people combined I found this a poor use of everything.  No wonder Japan is falling far behind.

Next the human form and especially this unit is about the worst you can get for propulsion movement in the water as can exert little force with a very large amount of drag.

  I hunt fish. etc for food underwater, no scuba, just snorkeling to 50' down and even with fins I'm almost the slowest fish down there except the poison ones.  Only by tactics is one able to get the fish one wants to eat like sneaking around a coral head, etc and surprising them.

Brentlim
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Re: Swimming Robots???
Brentlim   7/5/2012 3:17:16 PM
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My thoughts as well. Why look to the human form for a model of a swimming platform? Fascinating project and quite a feat to be able to accomplish, but why not look to a more efficient model for swimming than the human form?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Swimming Robots???
Ann R. Thryft   7/17/2012 11:57:39 AM
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Brentlim, as we mention in the article, this research is not theoretical, designed to come up with a generic swimming platform. Instead, it's 100% targeted at sports-related apps, specifically competitive swimmers, and optimized swimsuit design for same.

Charles Murray
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Computer time
Charles Murray   6/27/2012 9:29:27 PM
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Unbelievable. I can only imagine how much CFD and FEA time must have been used to model these whole-body dynamics.  

Droid
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Commander Data - Please take a breath...
Droid   6/28/2012 9:28:49 AM
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This is a great start.  Agree with Beth that its movements are quite choppy. I also noticed that it has the advantage (or disadvantage for good human swimming simulation) of not having to raise its head above water to take a breath. We all could swim a bit better if breathing was unnecessary. Seems like simulating taking a breath and seeing where you are going must be a part of this at some point.

haydar@siu.edu
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hmmm...legs?
haydar@siu.edu   6/28/2012 11:44:22 AM
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I think it would be a good idea under certain conditions like a bad weather where it's almost impossible to send someone to rescue, but I think the legs in water are inefficient and for that a propeller for lower body is much better in many aspects. The upper body with limbs is a good idea if you are trying to grab someone or something from the water. Nice work though! 

bobjengr
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SWIMMING ROBOT
bobjengr   6/28/2012 7:08:33 PM
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 This is a fascinating article and a good report but I must agree with Jerry, it seems to be a misuse of technical resources; i.e. time, money, CFD, etc.   Then again, sometimes the greatest break-throughs comes from seemingly trivial pursuits.   I think this exercise must be aimed at other than saving lives.    I would like to know more about the control methodology and what language was used to program the device. 

Charles Murray
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Re: SWIMMING ROBOT
Charles Murray   6/28/2012 8:00:39 PM
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Yes, this is basic research stretched to its limits. I guess we never know when something like this could serve as a foundation for a breakthrough in another area, but it's hard to imagine what it could be.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: SWIMMING ROBOT
Ann R. Thryft   6/29/2012 12:08:23 PM
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bobjengr, if you can figure out what they're doing with programming language or control methodology by checking out SWUM or downloading the sample app, please let us know.

bobjengr
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Re: SWIMMING ROBOT
bobjengr   6/29/2012 4:49:34 PM
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Hello Ann.  I definitely will.  Robotic systems fascinate me and each year ( if not each month ) there seem to be advancements that just amaze.   I definitely will take a look at SWUM and see if I can gain additional information; then I'll certainly will let  you know. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: SWIMMING ROBOT
Ann R. Thryft   7/2/2012 12:14:02 PM
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Thanks, that would be great, and could perhaps answer some of the questions that have been posted here.

ChasChas
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torso
ChasChas   7/1/2012 2:09:43 PM
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The torso isn't flexible, that's why the "robotic" movement. A flexible coordinated torso would smooth it out.

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