Researchers at Harvard University have revealed a robot that can walk on water, just like a water boatman or of course, Jesus.
The insect-sized robot is designed to travel across land or water, offering great opportunities for surveillance or other tasks that require a flexible ‘bot.
It’s based upon the design of a cockroach, which can walk both above and below water for up to half an hour. The same team of researchers had already released details of its land-based HAMR (Harvard’s Ambulatory MicroRobot), but wanted to push the design one step further.
“There are two parts for achieving ‘walking on water,’” Kevin Chen, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard University’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science, told Digital Trends. “First is supporting the robot’s weight via surface tension, and the second is moving on the water surface via asymmetric paddling.”
What keeps the robot afloat while on water is its foot design. Built upon the force of tension, the pads submerge slightly, causing a dent in the water’s surface. This, in turn, provides enough upwards force to suspend the robot and support its weight, preventing it from sinking.
It can move across the surface using its ‘feet’ that can almost flab to provide thrust, moving it across the water’s surface.
Harvard University thinks the updated HAMR design would be most useful for search and rescue missions, especially when the researchers add extra features onboard, including sensors and a battery to keep it working for longer.
“Think about a scenario in which a building collapsed due to earthquake or tsunami. There are many people trapped in confined and cluttered environments,” Chen added. “We can send in a swarm [of hundreds] of these small robots into the site to search for survivors. These robots should be able to overcome obstacles on land. In addition, when facing water puddles, the robots need to bypass these by walking on the water surface or dive down to avoid obstacles on the water surface.”