Ever fancied walking on water? Well, now a robot can jump on it, literally. Researchers from Harvard University have built an insect-sized robot that mimics the way that water striders jump on water.
By observing water striders using high-speed cameras, the scientists noticed that the insects do not simply push down on the water, but gradually accelerate their legs so as not to break the surface tension.
The striders also sweep their legs inward before each jump, to maximise the amount of time they touch the surface, which increases the force of their pushes.
As described in a paper published in Science, the researchers used these principles to develop an ultra light robot with a 2-cm long body inspired by origami.
Its 5-cm long wire legs are curved at the tips like a real water strider's and coated with a material that repels water.
A flea-inspired jumping system called a torque reversal catapult, launches the robot from the surface of the water up to 14.2 cm in the air, which is similar to water striders.
At the moment, the strider-bot can only jump once, and cannot land upright.
"Looking at nature is a good starting point to improving robot systems because they have already optimised their behaviour through millions of years of evolution," said co-lead author Je-sung Koh from Harvard University.
Koh said that they would like to build upon this design to develop a robot that can not only jump on the water, but that could also swim and perform other complex tasks.