Your iPhone can find a lot of stuff: taxis, toilets, cafés, nearby sexual partners. How cute! And pitiable. While you've been scouting the best place to poop, Harvard researchers are working on an app that finds landmines.
Landmines detection is still surprisingly rudimentary: a human being waves a metal detector over the ground, and listens for audible cues that's there's something metal underground. But that poses a lot of problems. There's a lot of metal junk in the ground where stuff is blowing up all the time. Worse, operators have to be able to pick out mines from debris without losing life or limb. They do that by listening to beeps as they make passes trying to figure out what shape that metal thing underground is. It's hard!
Enter PETALS: pattern enhancement tool for assisting land mine sensing. The basic idea is that it allows anyone, even an inexperienced sweeper, to determine if there's a landmine and where it is. The app receives data from a metal detector and creates a visualization of the spatial pattern below ground. It helps reduce judgement calls in determining if something is or isn't a mine, making de-mining easier, safer and faster.
Photo courtesy Flickr user DVIDSHUB