Insect Robots Can Mimic Water Striders

Insect robots – yes, they do exist – can now jump on water without a splash!

A group of researchers from Seoul and Harvard universities have recently constructed tiny insect robots that can jump and land on water based on the mechanisms of the water strider, a bug known for for that ability.

According to Popular Science magazine, the team of researchers recorded the jump of these remarkable creatures with high-speed cameras to study exactly what allows them to get the push they need to launch off the water’s surface and move forward – all without causing much disturbance in the process.

Based on the findings of the video recordings, the team then designed insect robots that utilize the same amazing mechanism to move around – and jump – on water!

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The secret behind the water strider’s ability to perform this incredible feat is the fact that the insect does not simply push down on the water with its legs as creatures on the ground would do to jump. Instead, it gradually accelerates its legs as it sweeps them inward before launching up to increase the force of the push. What keeps it from breaking the water surface tension? The gradual pull and sweep motion just before the push.

So how do you design a insect robots that can perform the same function, actually be useful, and still be light enough to stand on water?

While the new insect robots are actually seven times heavier than the bugs they were based on, according to The Verge, the Smithsonian suggests that its 68-milligram body is still light enough to keep it afloat and allow it to jump as it is designed to.

Speaking of insect robots, if you are the type of person that is quite worried about this stuff being used for surveillance purposes, then you really should be worried.

“This robotic technology could be used for building [a] large number of robots that can float, and jump on water for surveillance missions,” The Verge quoted the team as saying in a press release.

“An example can be found in the movie Minority Report, where many small insect-like robots are deployed in an apartment in search for a fugitive.”

In other news related to insect robots, Popular Science also reports that Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has found a way to help build more effective tiny insect-sized video-recording drones that can fly without crashing. (Yes, more insect-sized surveillance opportunities to keep you worried.)

These new designs and developments of insect robots will definitely have beneficial uses, of course, especially with regards to search and rescue efforts and scientific research.

What’s your take on these new developments? And do you think these insect robots will eventually be used for rather unethical purposes?

[Photo via Wikimedia Commons]