Trash-Talking Robot Garbage Can Lectures You About Litter

By: | November 27th, 2013

Beware litterbugs. If you’re thinking about littering, you’re about to get called out … by a robot.

Studies have shown that litter attracts litter and if streets and public places were clean, people would think twice about tossing their trash on the ground. Litter poses environmental, health and safety concerns. It’s unsightly and greatly reduces the aesthetic appeal of public places including streets, parks and waterways. Broken items like glass or other sharp object can injure kids and pets. Food leftovers and packaging harm birds and other animals.

To can these litter problems, Japan has developed a Robotic Trash Can that follows you around until you pick up your trash. Engineers from the Interaction and Communications Design Lab at the Toyohashi University of Technology have developed a Social Trash Box (STB) robot  that is equipped with a microprocessor, video camera and speaker. A pyro-electric sensor helps it identify public places where people are present by detecting their body heat. It then asks them to pick up the trash and drop it in its bin. STB will even twist and bow to help make it easier for you to get your trash in its can.

The robot also has a distance sensor that guides it with motors, allowing it to move forward, backward, left and right. STB employs its camera in conjunction with an object recognition algorithm to identify a piece of trash.

You can’t fool it when it requests you to pick up the trash; the STB’s infrared sensors let it know if the litter has indeed been deposited.

What if you decide to ignore STB and litter anyway? Be prepared for the robot to trash talk you by yelling, “Hey, pick up your trash!”

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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