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The Future of Lifeguards

The Olympic and Paralympic Games have not only been inspiring a future generation of sports people but apparently been inspiring the next generation of lifeguards too! If the Japanese have anything to do with it, the human lifeguards we see on beach chairs and by the swimming pool have their days numbered. The Tokyo Institute of Technology have showcased the latest robotic design which researchers have stated is designed to copy the movement of the Olympic swimmers. Named Swumanoid, the robot can swim front crawl at 0.64 metres per second which is about a third of the pace of the current world record! It can also swim backstroke and butterfly successfully in the water but will need a new pair of legs before it will be able to start on breast stroke. Ther Japanese team behind the robot are hoping that one day in the future Swumanoid could act as a lifeguard along our coastline and patrol for swimmers in distress. Professor Nakashima, lead researcher, said: ‘Since it's a swimming humanoid, it will be able to help people who face danger out in the water, I believe this may be possible in the future.’ This is still a long way off in the future though. Don’t expect any Hasselhoff style robots just yet on your beach! The designs of the robot are still lacking in some areas, including waterproofing issues and a lack of endurance. These problems should be solved in just a few weeks. But for now, before it starts saving the lives of struggling swimmers, Swumanoid will be measuring water resistance and also analysing how people swim. By analysing these factors, it will be able to help find patterns which could develop and improve a swimmers technique. Using a robot should be more beneficial to the researchers than using a human who would become fatigued and slow their stroke as the testing went on. The researchers and engineers developed the robot by scanning an Olympic athlete and creating a plastic version of their body.Who this Olympic swimmer is, no one knows! But they can recreate their body in this plastic robot design in any size. Watch the video here!
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