Posting in Design
An algorithm for environmental sensing could help sensor robots navigate the ocean in a more efficient way.
With concerns over the spread of radiation from Japanese nuclear reactors in the ocean, MIT researchers have developed an algorithm that can help robots travel in a smarter, more efficient way.
The algorithm can determine when environmental changes are significant and worthy of further investigation. The researchers compare the changes to the collection of dust on the floor, according to a MIT news report. Obviously, dust piles up differently, depending on the rate of environmental change. Similar changes occur in the ocean - not all areas will have the same environmental damage. That's where the algorithms come in: sensors should only pick up the changes if it reaches a certain limit.
Depending on several factors such as changes in temperature and the concentration of environmental contamination, the algorithm can work out how robots should adjust its speed and trajectory in the water. For instance, a robot should know if it should go back and get more samples or speed up when it doesn't need to collect as much data.
When the robots are out in the vast ocean for a long time, it's better to send them into the needy areas and keep them away from the regions that don't need as much attention. To test out the algorithm, researchers at the University of Southern California used the formula developed at MIT to help their underwater sensors sniff out algae blooms and collect data in the areas of interest.
The MIT researchers anticipate that the algorithm will eventually help robots do more than just monitor the environment - and might actually do some of the dirty work of cleaning up the mess.
Speeding swarms of sensor robots [MIT news]
Photo: Smith et al.
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May 4, 2011