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Photo by Ackerman + Gruber

water quality reports, which are based on human measurements. If we could use Minnebot to do that same job, we could potentially increase the number of readings and improve the state of our waters.” But there’s plenty to do before Minnebot is ready to fulfill its purpose. “It’s definitely a work in progress,” Fulton said. “There are always new innovations happening. I think everyone in robotics, to a certain extent, is a tinkerer—that’s just the way our brains work. We’re never fully satisfied.” Much of the group’s work revolves around IRV lab director Junaed Sat-

tar’s studies involving human-to-robot communication, or enabling humans and Minnebot to communicate with each other. For instance, one student in the lab has developed a hand-gesture interface, where you make gestures to the robot and control it that way. Fulton, on the other hand, is doing the reverse. “I’m working on robot-to-human interface—using the robot’s motion, starting with having the robot nod its head or shake its head and moving on to more complicated things, like pointing,” he said. “It needs to be efficient, it needs to be natural, and it needs to be foolproof—especially underwater.”

Another challenge that’s unique to underwater robots is vision—being able to obtain usable images to collect data (for instance, on water quality). “The trouble is that underwater, most images are distorted,” Fulton said. “You have turbidity, you have varying light conditions, you have algae. But we’ve done some fantastic work on improving underwater image quality.” The group brings Minnebot to the University Recreation and Wellness Center monthly for a full day of pool trials. That entails hours of packing up before and after, Fulton said. In June, they also brought it to Lake Nokomis in south Minneapolis for

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Inventing Tomorrow Fall 2018  

In this water-themed issue, students and faculty at the College of Science and Engineering use the latest research techniques to study water...

Inventing Tomorrow Fall 2018  

In this water-themed issue, students and faculty at the College of Science and Engineering use the latest research techniques to study water...