July 18 - Scientists in Japan have developed what they say is the world's most advanced swimming robot, designed to improve performance in the pool. Called ''Swumanoid'', the robot isn't yet ready for a role in Japan's Olympic swimming programme but, by 2016, developers hope to have it ready as a coach's assistant. Rob Muir reports.
He's called a Swimming Human Model, or Swumanoid for short and his designers say, he's the most advanced swimming robot ever made. Swumanoid has been created to help engineers study the fluid mechanics at work around competitive swimmers in the pool, in an effort to improve their actions and lap times. He's half the size of a human and can move all four limbs simultaneously thanks to a combination of 20 independent motors controlling key joints. SOUNDBITE: ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR MOTOMU NAKASHIMA, TOKYO INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY SAYING: "I believe that this level of a realistically human-like swimming robot being perfected is a first in the world." Associate professor Motomu Nakashima fromTokyo Institute of Technology leads the team who created Swumanoid. They based their design on human swimmers in action, creating musculoskeletal animation to provide basic engineering information and computer generated marthermatical renderings showing the fluid dynamics at work in both swimmers and members of the national water-polo and synchronized swimming teams. Nakashima says Swumanoid will be used initially, as a tool for increasing competitive perfomance and developing high speed swimwear. Unlike human test subjects, Nakashima says Swumanoid can reproduce the same pre-programmed movements repeatedly, allowing for more accurate analysis. But he says, Swumanoid might one day have other uses...as a tool for disaster recovery. SOUNDBITE: ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR MOTOMU NAKASHIMA, TOKYO INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY SAYING: "An environment that only a robot would be able to enter, for example, looking at the current events there's a lot of talk about nuclear power plants and atomic energy. By being able to go underwater the robot would be able to swim in the nuclear affected areas to either repair or fix as needed." But Nakashima admits, that's many years into the future, More immediatelky he see Swumanoid as a coaching aid. It's unlikely he'll see any action at this year's Olympic Games however. The team says Swumanoid is still a work in progress with many more laps to swim before he's ready to make a splash. Rob Muir, Reuters