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Surprising Science

Coming Next to Cities: Buildings That Empathize With You

Sensors that gather data from specific individuals using a particular buildings will transform homes and workplaces into dynamic spaces with an ever-pleasant ambiance.

What’s the Latest Development?

Engineer Akira Mita wants to make buildings smarter by installing amazingly intelligent robotic sensors that concentrate primarily on gathering data from individual personalities occupying the building. “Early prototypes, called the ‘e-bio’, are about as big as the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners. They’re equipped with a pair of bat-like ears that can determine the precise location of sounds. They also have an ‘eye’ that sweeps a laser beam around the robot, allowing it build a complete, three-dimensional picture of its surroundings ten times a second.” The sensors could interpret the body language of a person who is uncomfortably hot to adjust the thermostat. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Mita has taken nature as his cue in creating the new robotic sensors. “Living organisms give birth to the next generation, and have immunity to viruses such as influenza,” says Mita. “Our idea was that we wanted to give architecture this kind of biological response capability.” Just as the immune system operates without one cell controlling the process, the sensors could work on a consensus basis, making the best decision based on the individuals present at the time. In one case, the sensors created a music playlist which kept a group more productive. That data could then tell us how to build better buildings. 

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