This robot uses AI to hunt for cigarette butts

Thanks to an AI-based system, the BeachBot makes war on cigarette butts on the beaches. And you can even touch a few pennies to help him!

Of all the things that can ruin our beaches this summer, cigarettes are certainly one of the most dramatic. This scourge, the Dutch inventors of TechTics have made of it their battle horse; they designed the BeachBot, an autonomous robot specially designed to hunt cigarette butts.

Thanks to its favorite weapons – a set of cameras, an articulated arm, and software based on artificial intelligence – this little robot is able to skim a strip of sand to track these objects, responsible for widely demonstrated pollution.

A slow robot, but an interesting technology

Thanks to a detection algorithm, the BeachBot is able to distinguish cigarette butts from other types of waste. For this, he will benefit from the help of a squadron of small robots; upstream, they will scan the entire area. Once these little helpers have mapped the waste present on the beach, they will give way to the BeachBot; the latter therefore only has to move towards the areas concerned, to locate the butts in question, and to collect them.

At the moment, this robot is only at the proof of concept stage. According to the first test in real conditions, it would be able to pick up 20 butts per hour. That is to say a much lower output than that of a motivated human armed with a garbage bag. For future versions, engineers will try to improve this performance. At present, this is still too weak to justify its use in the field.


TechTics pays you to coach the BeachBot!

Ultimately, the goal would be to make it a versatile maintenance robot. This will require adapting its image recognition algorithm so that it can recognize other types of waste. They will also have to develop an automated sorting system, so as to be able to separate recyclable elements from ultimate waste.

But until this technology becomes mature enough, you can participate in its development yourself. Because to fuel its artificial intelligence, the developers have relied on Microsoft Trove. This platform is designed to connect image authors and AI developers; the former offer their content, and the latter use it to train their algorithms.

In order to make its machine progress as quickly as possible, TechTics has decided to put the odds in its favor and to reward contributors. According to Microsoft, each image sent will be paid up to 25 euro cents. Not enough to make a fortune, but enough to symbolize participation in a good deed!

For more information on this system, go to the presentation page of Microsoft and the site of TechTics.

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