Building a robot that can stand and walk on two legs like a human is challenging enough -- but what about a robot that swims like a human? A team from Tokyo University of Technology has created the Swumanoid, a swimming robot that's based on the physique of a human swimmer and can swim a variety of strokes. But why should a swimming robot have to look like a person? Most fish swim much faster, more gracefully and more efficiently than humans. That's why scientists from the University of Virginia are developing the Mantabot, a robot that looks and swims like a ray.
On the topic of robot makers, this week also saw robot builder Simon Burfield put together the world's first working wheelchair made of Lego bricks. The remarkable chair can carry a 198-pound person and turn in a full circle. Burfield wasn't the only one flaunting some impressive Lego skills this week. Using 20,000 Lego pieces, Lego Technic expert Nicolas Lespour built an automated mechanical loom that weaves fabric from multiple bobbins of colored yarn. And Warren Elsmore built a perfect replica of the Olympic Stadium using 100,000 Lego pieces.
The Olympics are in full swing, and we were pleased to learn that the organizers of the 2012 Summer Games installed seven vertical axis qr5 wind turbines at the Olympic Park in London. Although there's still another week of action left, we took a look at what the future will hold for London's Olympic Park, when High Line designer James Corner will transform it into a 55-acre park. And looking forward to 2016, we're excited about Rio de Janeiro's promise to build an enormous energy-producing artificial waterfall.
Speaking of clean tech, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory just announced that the US has the technology and the solar capacity to power every home across the states with solar energy. (Political and financial obstacles still stand in the way, though.) The Middle Eastern nation of Oman moved one step closer to that goal as it plans to build a massive new 200 MW solar farm in the desert that could generate the entire country's electricity supply. And in another exciting solar development, the company Solar3D just unveiled a prototype for a three-dimensional photovoltaic cell that could be dramatically more efficient than existing technology.
In the Netherlands, scientists have developed a self-healing nano coating that repairs itself when it's damaged and could keep cars permanently clean. Meanwhile, here in the US, a team from MIT has developed a portable 3D printer that's so small it fits inside a suitcase. And in one of the neatest art installations we've seen this week, Leo Villareal announced plans to install a 30-foot-tall "Buckyball" sculpture that's made up of 180 glowing LED tubes in New York City's Madison Square Park later this year.