The next time you set off for a long day in the coal mines, forget the canary – bring your Roomba along instead!
While we are pretty sure that canaries are no longer used in the mining industry, this Roomba hack could make a suitable replacement if they were. A team from the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) recently showed off a Roomba which they modified to test an area’s air quality. Using an Arduino and a volatile organic chemical (VOC) detecting air quality sensor, the Roomba goes about its normal business, lighting an LED any time it encounters overly contaminated air. When captured via a long exposure image, the process creates a “bad air” map of sorts, with the polluted areas highlighted by the glow of the LED.
While the Roomba currently only detects VOCs, the team plans on adding additional sensors in the near future to expand its functionality. The Roomba is merely a proof of concept at the moment, but we imagine that similar technology will be adapted for use in unmanned explorations of chemically hostile environments, if that hasn’t happened already.