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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Research gives drones Daredevil-like vision

As a child, Matt Murdoch lost his vision in a freak accident.

But over the years, he honed his ability to translate sounds into a mental picture of his surroundings like a bat using echolocation.

It was such a powerful skill that Murdoch became the Marvel superhero Daredevil.

It’s a great comic book gimmick, but Purdue University researcher Mireille Boutin has used algebra and geometery to give a drone similar abilities. The drone is outfitted with just four microphones and a single speaker.

The drone can reconstruct the walls of rooms buying using the echoes that are picked up by the microphones. The microphone hears the echo and measures the time difference between when the sound was produced and the time it was heard. The time difference shows the distance traveled.

According to the university, one challenge was determining which distance corresponds to which wall, something called "echosorting." That's where the algebra comes in.

Boutin worked with Gregor Kemper, a professor of algorithmic algebra at the Technical University of Munich and their research has been published in the SIAM Journal of Applied Algebra and Geometry.

Their work addresses two adjacent problems in engineering -- localization, determining where you are in an environment, and mapping, determining the shape of your environment.

This isn't just Gee whiz research, though that is what caught my eye. The research has practical applications for cars and other vehicles, even underwater or for devices worn by an individual.

More research is ahead to work out different scenarios for the technology is likely to face.

But for parents of middle and high schoolers complaining about having to take algebra, here is an example of why it’s important and the cool things it can be used for. And you can tell them they can be like Daredevil.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Mar 04, 2020 at 10:11 AM

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