Watch: The Bug-Inspired Robot That Can Jump On Water

Perhaps as a child, you recall gazing at water striders on a lazy summer day. These pond insects appear to, seemingly against all odds, glide across the water—even jumping sometimes. By elucidating the water strider’s secrets, researchers have covered new ground in the field of robotics. This week, a paper published in Science details the latest innovation: a small robotic insect that can vertically jump across the surface of water.

Making a Strider-Bot:

In order to create this robot, scientists first had to learn how water striders achieve the laudable feat of jumping on water. After collecting water striders from ponds, they used a high-speed camera—one capable of recording 3,000 frames per second—to closely monitor the creatures’ movements.

Ultimately, Above all else, the researchers found that the force inherent in the surface of water is key: to float and jump, they simply must avoid breaking the surface tension. As you can imagine, this is easier said than done, but fortunately, they have light bodies and water-resistant legs, which make them suitable for the task.

Furthermore, the researchers found that the insects rotate their four rear legs when jumping. This precise motion ensures that the legs continuously meet undisturbed water. And because the insect’s legs are slightly curved and remain in contact with the water as long as possible, they can quickly and efficiently lift off.

“Water’s surface needs to be pressed at the right speed for an adequate amount of time, up to a certain depth, in order to achieve jumping,” reported Kyu Jin Cho, the study’s co-author. “The water strider is capable of doing all these things flawlessly.”

The trick is getting it just right. “If you apply as much force as quickly as possible on water, the limbs will break through the surface and you won’t get anywhere,” stated Dr. Robert Wood, co-author on the study. The water strider manages to apply just the right amount of force to lift off the water, without breaking through the surface tension.

Armed with their new knowledge, the team then created a robotic insect. Like the water strider, the newly designed robot is light and small, weighing only 68 milligrams. Its legs are also thin and flexible, made of a mixture of nickel and titanium.

To prevent the legs from breaking through the surface of the water, the ends were curved, and coated with a water-repellent material. In fact, the only striking difference between the robot and the water strider itself was the length of its legs, which are just 5 cm longer than those of their real-life counterparts.

How did the robot jump?

For this crucial task, the researchers relied on a relatively-simple catapult mechanism based on yet another insect—the flea. The jumping is initiated by a thin wire placed under the robot and heated by an external source; it activates the catapult and makes the legs sweep back.

Indeed the robots were able to jump 14 cm (or 5.5 inches) without breaking the surface of the water. Furthermore, the robots could achieve the same jump on land.

Like the insect it mirrors, this robot can perform these striking abilities without any complex controls. Cho points to the insect’s natural structure for this simplistic function.

“It is a form of embodied or physical intelligence, and we can learn from this kind of physical intelligence to build robots that are similarly capable of performing extreme maneuvers without highly-complex controls or artificial intelligence.”

While robots have been designed to jump on land (take this jumping robot we recently covered), this is the first robot to jump on water (some can float, however).

Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D, the Founding Director of Harvard’s Wyss Institute, was impressed with the findings. “This international collaboration of biologists and roboticists has not only looked into nature to develop a novel, semi-aquatic bioinspired robot that performs an new extreme form of robotic locomotion, but has also provided us with new insights on the natural mechanics at play in water striders.”

See it in action: http://bit.ly/1JBnxzg

Image Credit: Seoul National University

Robotic Insect Mimics the Ability of the Water Strider to Jump On Water

International team of researchers looked to water strider insects to develop a robot that jumps off water’s surface.

The research is in the Science. (full access paywall)

Research: “Jumping on water: Surface tension–dominated jumping of water striders and robotic insects” by Je-Sung Koh, Eunjin Yang, Gwang-Pil Jung, Sun-Pill Jung, Jae Hak Son, Sang-Im Lee, Piotr G. Jablonski, Robert J. Wood, Ho-Young Kim, and Kyu-Jin Cho in Science doi:10.1126/science.aab1637

Image: For the robotic insect to jump off water, the lightweight catapult mechanism uses a burst of momentum coupled with limited thrust to propel the robot off the water without breaking the water’s surface. An automatic triggering mechanism, built from composite materials and actuators, was employed to activate the catapult. Image credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University.

3

The Random User

Hack project by Monobo is a motorized computer mouse which randomly moves and clicks on web pages:

A vintage intervened mouse that browse internet randomly, without control. A special user who does not attend UX strategies, CTAs, quality content… This small desktop experimente explores the identity on the internet theories and the “Google Analytics” world.

Link

2

Putting Graphene to Work

Yesterday we saw how graphene can be used as a lubricant to make friction disappear. Today scientists reveal that the two-dimensional sheets of linked carbon atoms can be fashioned into hinges and springs to build microscale machines.

cornelluniversity researchers made the tiny devices using principles from kirigami, the ancient art of cutting and folding paper. Melina Blees and her colleagues decided to try the approach after early studies poking graphene sheets showed that the material behaves physically much like paper–it folds and crumples outside of the sheet’s plane but doesn’t stretch or compress within the plane. Learn more and see photos and video below.

(A large sheet of graphene can be crumpled like soft paper and returns to its original shape in a water and soap solution.)

Keep reading

2

Monocular SLAM Supported Object Recognition

Research from CSAIL at MIT have produced a computer vision method of accurate object recognition using a normal camera, a method which could assist future robotics:

John Leonard’s group at CSAIL specializes in SLAM, or simultaneous localization and mapping, the technique whereby mobile autonomous robots map their environments and determine their locations.

Last week, at the Robotics Science and Systems conference, members of Leonard’s group presented a new paper demonstrating how SLAM can be used to improve object-recognition systems, which will be a vital component of future robots that have to manipulate the objects around them in arbitrary ways.

The system uses SLAM information to augment existing object-recognition algorithms. Its performance should thus continue to improve as computer-vision researchers develop better recognition software, and roboticists develop better SLAM software.

More at CSAIL here, or the project page here

youtube

The most advanced robots in the world might not be exactly what you’re expecting. But they’re shaping humanity’s future.

4

Incremental Forming

Video from Robots in Architecture documents a workshop session exploring digital fabrication form using an industrial robot and sheets of plastic:

During this highly experimental workshop we explored the potential of incremental forming of plastic in an architectural context. Over a week-long workshop we went at the very limits of both material and machine, finetuning the fabrication strategies in the process. All final exhibits were designed by the participants themselves within Grasshopper and KUKA|prc. The relative high speed of the process allowed us to iterate very quickly, using parametric programming to quickly react on and improve on the result of the previous experiment. 

Link