Gasbot Sniffs Out Climate Destruction With Lasers

No human wants to go looking for the smelliest parts of landfills, but this little robot is happy to help

2 min read
Gasbot Sniffs Out Climate Destruction With Lasers

Jobs don't get much more dirty than being the person who has to hike around landfills looking for sources of stinkyness. It's an important job, though, because stinkyness means methane, and methane means you're killing the planet. Yes, you. But seriously, figuring out where landfills are leaking is a critical and tedious and decidedly unpleasant thing, and you know what that means: bring on the robots!

Gasbot is a project from the AASS Research Centre at Orebro University in Sweden. It's a Clearpath Robotics Husky A200 mobile robot (awarded for free through Clearpath's Partner Program) equipped with a pair of laser scanners, a GPS, and a remote gas sensor. Specifically, we're talking about a Tunable Laser (LASER!) Absorption Spectrometer, which provides integral concentration measurements of gasses over the path of the laser beam. All you have to do is let Gasbot roam around a site where you think you might have gas leaks, and it will build up a map of concentrations and locations for you, while you see how many scented candles it takes to numb your olfactory centers.

The robot has already been tested in a decommissioned landfill, as well as in an underground tunnel where it was used to localize a leaking gas pipe. In both cases, Gasbot was successful, but there's still a bunch of work to be done before it'll be able to take over from humans. Specifically, it needs to get better at localizing, it has to be able to robustly traverse obstacles like you might find in a real landfill, and it also needs to be able to operate over a several square kilometer area by itself over the course of days or weeks. Doing all of this isn't likely to be easy, but it's almost certainly possible, and it'll give us humans some relief while it provides the data necessary to better manage waste gasses from landfills and biogas production sites. 

[ Paper ] via [ Gasbot ]

Thanks Meghan!

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
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In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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