Despite what Jesus would have you believe, walking on water is no great achievement – insects have been doing it for millennia. But now robots are doing it too.
Bioroboticists from Seoul National University in Korea and Harvard in the US have teamed up to build a robotic insect that can not only walk on water, but jump on it too – and in doing so they've given us new insights into how real insects do it.
"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," said the study's co–senior author Kyu Jin Cho. Working out that speed took a lot of trial and error, and multiple different prototypes.
It wasn't just the water strider that inspired their spindly robot. The mechanism for how fleas jump, which the team had studied previously, was also used to allow it to leap off the water without complex controls.
"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," said Cho.
Robert Wood, another co-author, added: "The resulting robotic insects can achieve the same momentum and height that could be generated during a rapid jump on firm ground – but instead can do so on water."
Image credit: Seoul National University