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If a tree falls in the Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary, it doesn't matter if there's no one around.That's because researchers have hidden dozens of wireless sensor nodes, microphones and cameras among the cattails and cedars of this Plymouth, Massachusetts, nature reserve.Beyond that, though, researchers want to use the collected data to help power an online virtual reality world a kind of alternate universe modeled on live conditions in the marsh, but populated with fanciful creatures invented in a computer science lab.What happens when you apply such an internet-connected network to nature?Remotely spying on nature isn't new, but the project goes beyond simple webcams fixed on a hawk's nest or sea lions' favorite pier or even the more sophisticated acoustic sensors designed to detect animal poachers.If it works here, Davenport said, researchers are already envisioning more ambitious projects deep in the Amazon rainforest or on the moon.On a hot afternoon in late summer, MIT researcher Gershon Dublon and his colleagues tromped around the preserve in chest-high waders to show how the sensors can amplify a human's observation of nature.
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