This YouTube video’s a couple of years old now, but I’ve just seen it on SwimSwam. It’s from the Nakashima Laboratory at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
Basically it’s a project to see how the force of water affects the swimmer. In this case, the robot is actuated by 20 motors and uses all four limbs to get across the body of water (albeit quite slowly).
What it clearly demonstrates is just how complex learning to swim really is – that even with 20 motors the technique is still a long way from the standard you would expect from an adult swimmer given a few hours of tuition (just look at how wide those arms are when they enter the water,for example).
Nevertheless I think the experiment is very interesting. Presumably what they’ll be able to do in the future is use more motors to provide greater refinements to the stroke and be able to assess what changes they can make to subtly improve performance. Who knows maybe one day we’ll even have our own Robot Swimming Olympics!
You can also see how the swimming robot was designed and how he moves out of the water and in an immersion tank in the YouTube video below. It’s all fascinating stuff.
The details of this study are described in the paper below: