Researchers in Singapore Deploy Robot Swans to Test Water Quality

NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

There's something peculiar about the new swans floating around reservoirs in Singapore. They drift across the water like normal birds, but upon closer inspection, onlookers will find they're not birds at all: They're cleverly disguised robots designed to test the quality of the city's water.

As Dezeen reports, the high-tech waterfowl, dubbed NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network), are the work of researchers at the National University of Singapore [PDF]. The team invented the devices as a way to tackle the challenges of maintaining an urban water source. "Water bodies are exposed to varying sources of pollutants from urban run-offs and industries," they write in a statement. "Several methods and protocols in monitoring pollutants are already in place. However, the boundaries of extensive assessment for the water bodies are limited by labor intensive and resource exhaustive methods."

By building water assessment technology into a plastic swan, they're able to analyze the quality of the reservoirs cheaply and discreetly. Sensors on the robots' undersides measure factors like dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels. The swans wirelessly transmit whatever data they collect to the command center on land, and based on what they send, human pilots can remotely tweak the robots' performance in real time. The hope is that the simple, adaptable technology will allow researchers to take smarter samples and better understand the impact of the reservoir's micro-ecosystem on water quality.

Man placing robotic swan in water.
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

This isn't the first time humans have used robots disguised as animals as tools for studying nature. Check out this clip from the BBC series Spy in the Wild for an idea of just how realistic these robots can get.

[h/t Dezeen]

Playing Jeopardy! While You Drive Is the Best Way to Deal With Your Boring Commute

Ben Hider, Getty Images
Ben Hider, Getty Images

More than 55 years after making its television debut, Jeopardy! continues to hold a prominent place in popular culture. Last spring, James Holzhauer went on a 32-game winning streak, coming just $58,484 short of beating all-time champion (and Mental Floss contributor) Ken Jennings' $2.52 million winnings.

If only Holzhauer had an app to practice with during the drive to the studio. Now, thanks to Drivetime, future contestants and general trivia enthusiasts have that opportunity. The service just launched a Jeopardy! add-on that allows players to answer questions from the first 35 seasons of the show using Drivetime’s voice-based, hands-free interface. A new show will be available to Drivetime users daily. If they subscribe for $9.99 monthly, they can choose any show from past seasons. Questions are read by host Alex Trebek in both archival and recently taped audio.

The game offers one tweak for civilians: As each clue is read, the app offers three possible responses, turning it into a multiple-choice quiz. Money is still accrued and you can still wager on Final Jeopardy to walk away with a victory.

[h/t Engadget]

Need Help Cleaning Up the Dog Poop in Your Yard? There’s an App for That

schulzie/iStock via Getty Images
schulzie/iStock via Getty Images

You love your dog, but you surely don't love what they behind in the yard for you to clean up. In most cases, scooping up poop is an unpleasant but unavoidable part of pet parenthood. Now, as WGN9 reports, there's a way to keep your yard looking pristine without breaking out the waste disposal bags. A business called Plowz & Mowz will come to your home and scoop the poop for you.

Plowz & Mowz is like Taskrabbit for outdoor chores. The app was built around services like plowing driveways, mowing lawns, and mulching gardens, and it recently added pet waste removal to its list.

If you want to get rid of the dog poop on your lawn without getting your hands dirty, download the Plowz & Mowz app and request a poop-scooper to come to your home. After answering a few questions about your property, you'll receive a free quote with the option to set up a date for the service. A contractor will come to your house, update you throughout the process, and send a photo of your poop-free yard once they've finished the task.

Plowz & Mowz is currently operating in more than 40 metro areas, including, Boston, Dallas, Chicago, and Atlanta. To see if the app's poop-removal service is available in your area, you can enter your ZIP code on the website.

Cleaning up waste isn't necessarily time-consuming work, but it's something many pet owners avoid doing at all costs. Some apartment complexes have even started using DNA testing to identify the culprits behind unattended pet poo.

[h/t WGN9]

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