Illah Nourbakhsh on “What would you research if you did not have to worry about grants?”
Community empowerment through massive robotic sensing.
There is no question we live in a world that is changing. Pollutants are changing the dynamics of the air we breathe, the water we drink and even the soil on which we live. Yet the power to measure pollution, measure human behavior (including Emergency Room visits) and correlate the values is held tightly by government and corporate players. They have the money to focus on sensors and values that make their case, and they have the marketing skills to then present those values in the best possible light for reelection and for corporate profit.
But in fact those most touched by a changing world are ordinary citizens, and it is the citizen who has the potential to make decisions that immediately impact health and future legislation, from what neighborhood to live in to which politician to elect. Robotic sensing technologies are rapidly becoming less expensive, and with the right infusion of research I believe we could develop the networking, data visualization and interaction smarts to have global, publicly accessible information about all sources of pollution. This would empower citizens and communities to make far more informed decisions, and to fight biased information presentations with their own re-interpretation of source data. This will take new innovation in sensing technologies, networking, Big Data storage, search, retrieval and evaluation.
It is the stuff of robotics, through and through, applied to the deep goal of community empowerment at an international scale.