Similarly, in 2012, Guatemala’s Office of Economic Growth partnered with the U.S. Agency for
International Development to launch a two-year
US$1.2 million project to research HABs in Lake
Atitlán. Each year, thousands of tons of trash, fertilizer and raw sewage are dumped into the lake, one
of Guatemala’s top tourist attractions. The project,
United for Lake Atitlán, concluded that officials will
have to do what their counterparts have done to
protect Lake Tahoe in Nevada, USA since the 1960s:
export wastewater out of the lake.
While some projects target either the prevention of
HABs or the restoration of the waters where they
thrive, others aim to quickly detect bloom outbreaks.
In 2012, a HAB partly shut down the shellfish
industry in the Australian state of Tasmania at
a cost of AU$23 million because the bloom was
identified too late, and shellfish became toxic. In
October, the University of Tasmania launched an
AU$600,000 project to create a rapid shellfish and
water toxin screening test that will reduce testing
time from days to hours.
Another project aims to both detect and treat
HABs. A European consortium last year launched
the Dronic Project, a 30-month, € 3. 3 million effort
to develop a water-based robotic system that uses
unmanned surface vehicles and ultrasonic technology
to autonomously detect and dispose of harmful algae.
Still other initiatives see HABs not as a blight,
but as a potential asset. In 2013, Sweden launched
Seafarm, a five-year, SEK24.7 million project in
the Baltic Sea that will collect overabundant algae,
which consumes oxygen and can overwhelm an
ecosystem, creating a “dead zone.” Seafarm will
cultivate it in underwater farms to be used as eco-friendly food, medicine, plastic and energy.
“We turn the argument on its head and see algae
as a resource,” Fredrik Gröndahl, project manager,
KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm,
Sweden, said in a statement. —Novid Parsi
IN SOMEONE ELSE’S SHOES
enz is intended to be an exploration in empathy and collec-
In April, the project plans to launch its € 33,000 beta phase
to overcome technical challenges and ultimately broadcast
live video anywhere in the world. Currently, avatars are based
only in Barcelona, but the Omnipresenz team intends to place
them in New York, New York, USA and Tokyo, Japan, among
other cities around the globe. —M. Wright
A visionary project wants to let people see
the world without leaving the comfort of
their own homes.
Based in Barcelona, Spain, the Omnipresenz project pairs up its team members, or
avatars, with paying users. A real-life avatar
wears a helmet that streams high-definition
video and live audio to one or more users,
who follow—and command—the avatar’s
actions. Via a dashboard, the users type
their requests, which can be converted to
speech in the avatar’s earpiece.
The in-development project intends to be
more than virtual tourism, however. It also will allow people
to express charitable impulses in real time. If an avatar encounters someone in need of food or medicine, for example,
a user could give money directly to the person.
“It is very different if you donate US$10 on the street for a
staff member of a foundation that you don’t know very well
than to give US$10 and...directly receive the gratitude of the
person who needs the resources,” project developer Daniel
González Franco told Fast Company. “Ultimately, Omnipres-