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Swimming robot sends Crave off the deep end

Two researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have created a 3D-printed humanoid robot that can swim -- and may well make your skin, um, crawl.

Freestylin'. Screenshot by Edward Moyer/CNET

You know we here at Crave love a nice robot nightmare breakthrough, and this one's definitely a goodie.

Two researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Chung Changhyun and Motomu Nakashima, have created a 3D-printed 'bot that can do the crawl stroke like nobody's business.

As our friends at Plastic Pals tell us, SWUMANOID (SWimming hUMANOID robot) was created to allow for the study of propulsion and water resistance in a way that would be precisely repeatable (among other things, the data could be used to produce performance-enhancing swimwear). Changhyun and Nakashima did a 3D body scan of a real human and then created a half-size model controlled by 20 waterproof motors.

Besides the crawl, our lap-swimming android can do the breaststroke, the backstroke, and the butterfly, as well as tread water and dog paddle. He's not the fastest swimmer though: it takes him about 2 minutes and 35 seconds to swim a hundred meters.

But we suppose that's a good thing. We were already having grim lap-swim fantasies of a lifeless plastic hand grabbing us by the ankle and dragging us down into the merciless waters of the deep end -- in the blind spot where the lifeguard can't see. (And note the transition at 0:20 in the embedded video: why does the image of the partially assembled robot "crawling" on dry land -- and the accompanying mechanical noise -- have us nervously looking over our shoulder?)