Civic Robots help assess water quality in real time

Category: Environment & Sustainability | Health, Science & Education
Published on Mar 08, 2009

I love this example of participatory regulation. Marc Bohlen, an “artist-engineer” at the University of Zurich, has designed a floating public robot that makes assessing recreational water quality a transparent and participatory experience. The Glass Bottom Float, as he calls it, cruises along a beach shore, and offers itself as a resting spot in places it deems clean enough for swimming. Over time, writes Bohlen, the GBF maps paths of least contamination and highest relative pleasure for fish and people. Real-time water quality updates from Bohlen’s Woodlawn Beach pilot project are available on twitter or on your mobile phone (you’ll have to wait until summer time to see it in action though).

What else could “civic robots” do? I’m sure there’s a potentially endless list of civic chores: Monitoring and reporting local air quality, collecting and compacting street trash, issuing electronic fines for idling your car on hot summer day, cleaning up toxic sites, and who knows what else.

There’s an interview with Marc Bohlen here and if you’re in the San Jose region next week you can see him live at O’Reilly’s Emerging Tech Conference.

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