AI-powered robot microscopes will help clean up the world’s water supplies

AI-powered robot microscopes will help clean up the world’s water supplies

Water shortage is a problem that could affect up to a quarter of the world’s population by 2025. The behavior of microscopic plankton can give vital clues on everything from chemical pollution levels to temperature change.

Autonomous, robotic cameras developed by IBM and powered by AI have the potential to monitor this behavior in more detail than has been possible before. Data from the cameras can be analyzed to give real-time insights into factors affecting water quality and life in our lakes and oceans.

Ahead of today’s release, Jeff Welser, vice president and lab director at IBM Research told me “So with internet of things (IoT) we talk about putting sensors everywhere – and this is an example of just how far we can take this, when we combine it with AI.

“We know people are going to have all kinds of problems with clean water in the future, and we know there are micro-organisms in water, that if we can get them to tell us what’s happening that would be a really great way to understand any potential problems.”

Making the devices as low-powered as possible is essential, in order to be able to deploy them at scale. To this end, they don’t contain lenses or focus mechanisms or other complicated mechanical parts, but simply track shadows and movements through light sensors.

“We can get a lot of information from that”, Welser says. “Are the microscopic organisms moving around as they should be? There’s a lot of interesting science on what that behavior means.”

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