We're not saying we want the chiseled bodies of human lifeguards to disappear from beaches, but if Japan's Swumanoid swimming robot keeps making breakthroughs, their days are numbered.
In its primitive prototype form, Tokyo Institute of Technology's humanoid swimming robot can perform a freestyle crawl at 0.64 meters per second and can also do the backstroke and butterfly. In reality, the Swumanoid doesn't even swim on command all the time.
Aside from its researcher's ambitions of deploying it to rescue drowning victims one day, the robot's more practical use would be for analyzing how people swim to look for patterns that can help improve a swimmer's technique.
Whereas a real person repeating the same repetitive stroke over and over hundreds of times would get fatigued, a robot wouldn't. Data collected from the Swumanoid would easily help crank out more Michael "19 Olympic Medals" Phelps.
Ultimately, the Swumanoid should be able to do a breaststroke once it gets more advanced legs to do a froggy kick.
Like most robot engineering, the Swumanoid represents potential. Who knows, maybe in 10 years robots will be saving people washed out to sea and we won't even bat an eye at how weird it is.