Poop. It’s known by many names and can tell scientists a lot about you. From diet to drug use, poop samples taken from sewers allow scientists to get accurate information without the headache of collecting surveys and inaccurate information from participants.
Underworlds, a program from MIT that explores sewage systems for information about humans, is now taking sewage sampling to a whole new level. They have created a robot named Luigi that can plunge the stinky depths to collect samples. The robot could prove to be invaluable for collecting data during real-time events such as disease outbreaks. We might even see a quicker response to disease crisis.
The robot also keeps researchers safe. “It’s dangerous to be leaning over a manhole holding a 20-foot sampling pole,” Mariana Matus, an Underworlds researcher, told Wired. “Often, data from the people with the most problems isn’t recorded, because they don’t go to the doctor,” Matus says. But regardless of whether someone decides to see a doctor or not, they contribute to the sewage system.
MIT Senseable City Lab writes that sewage research could open up doors to avenues of data collection other than disease surveillance. One of these avenues is the development of a new population census. “Analyzed in tandem with demographic data, this platform can study the aggregate health of a city to the particular health of a neighbourhood.”
The Luigi pilot project is being run in Cambridge, Massachusetts and will soon soon expand to Boston (USA) and Kuwait City, allowing the researchers to analyse diverse data from different populations.