For decades humans have been taught that littering is bad. Despite this, a large percentage of the population can’t help themselves from dropping their trash instead of waiting to find a trash can. Thankfully, one adorable robot is slightly helping the littering disaster, and it's name is BeachBot.
BeachBot is making the world cleaner
Created by Edwin Bos and Martijn Lukaart, the BeachBot is primarily designed to tackle a very specific littering issue. On beaches, many visitors frequently discard cigarette butts only for them to be hidden under the sand. It’s a dangerous activity; children and animals are bound to touch – or eat – the disgusting discarded ends.
Using AI, BeachBot scans beaches to find cigarettes that have been discarded in the sand and pick them up. The robot uses two cameras to scan the beach for rubbish and humans, picking up the former while avoiding the latter. BeachBot then uses two little grippers to grab the trash and deposit it into its little bin.
In a Microsoft video highlighting the technology, the issue of cigarette pollution was simply explained:
“Every year, 4,500,000,000,000 cigarette butts ends up in the environment. The fibrous fragments can take up to 14 years to disintegrate along coastlines, slowly poisoning sea turtles, fish and other aquatic animals.”
How the AI detects cigarettes
Bos and Lukaart have partnered with Microsoft to make BeachBot as smart as it can possibly be. Using Microsoft Trove, the robot is being trained with images of cigarette butts constantly being upgraded by photographers.
By using the community's efforts, the current prototype has already completed a successful trial run. On World Cleanup Day, the robot began cleaning Scheveningen Beach. In just 30 minutes, the very first working prototype was able to detect and clean 10 cigarette butts in 30 minutes. Some of the discovered cigarettes were hidden under the sand.
It’s not a miraculous machine just yet, but with improvements over time, BeachBot could be coming to a shoreline near you.