Evan Ackerman calls attention to a project at National University of Singapore, that is deploying robotic water quality sensors that are designed to look like swans.
The robots cruise surface reservoirs, monitoring the water chemistry, and storing data as it is collected into the cloud via wifi. (Singapore has wifi everywhere!) The robots are encased in imitation swans, which is intended ‘to be “aesthetically pleasing” in order to “promote urban livability.”’ I.e., to look nice.
This is obviously a nice bit of work, and a good start. The fleet of autonomous robots can maneuver to cover a large area, and concentrate on hot spots when needed, all at a reasonable cost. I expect that the datasets will be amenable to data analysis machine learning, which can mean a continuous improvement in knowledge about the water quality.
As far as the plastic swan bodies…I’m not really sold.
For starters, they don’t actually look like real swans. They are obviously artificial swans.
Whether plastic swans are actually more aesthetically pleasing than other possible configurations seems like an open question to me. I tend to thing that a nicely designed robot might be just as pleasing or even better than a fake swan. And it would look like a water quality monitor, which is a good thing.
Perhaps this is an opportunity to collaborate with artists and architects to develop some attractive robots that say “I’m keeping your water safe.”
- Evan Ackerman, Bevy of Robot Swans Explore Singaporean Reservoirs, in IEEE Spectrum – Automation. 2018. https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/industrial-robots/bevy-of-robot-swans-explore-singaporean-reservoirs
- NUS Environmental Research Institute, New Smart Water Assessment Network (NUSwan), in NUS Environmental Research Institute – Research Tracks -Environmental Surveillance and Treatment 2018. http://www.nus.edu.sg/neri/Research/nuswan.html