Hackaday Prize Entry: Robot Shore

Everyone knows the ocean is not a gigantic garbage can, but unless you live in the middle of Asia, below sea level, Utah, or some other inhospitable place, all trash eventually makes it to sea. This is a problem not only for the the sea and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but for shorelines as well. For her Hackaday Prize entry, [Erin] is building a series of robots designed to walk the shore, pick up garbage, deposit it in a bin, and do it again after the next high tide.

The key problem for a robot that picks up trash is simply finding that trash. This means cameras and a lot of computing power. Lucky for [Erin], smartphones are cheap and have excellent cameras and a ton of processing power. The brains for these robots will be built around an off-the-shelf smartphone mounted on a pan/tilt mast on the bot.

[Erin] is already testing her bot, and after a few field tests she noticed a family left behind their trash on the beach. The robot moved into action before the flying rats could choke on a bottlecap, and the cleanup operation was a success. Not bad for a prototype, and an excellent entry to the Hackaday Prize.

16 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: Robot Shore

  1. Writing that “eventually all trash eventually makes it to the sea” and then presenting a plastic-made trash-picking robot as a solution and “excellent entry to the Hackaday Prize” is at best denying one´s responsibility at contributing to ecosystem pollution.
    Just to remind you, US is the most polluting country on Earth per capita:
    Q: What would be the impact on the ecosystem of a wide-use of such robots ? What would be the cost ?
    What if this money and energy was spend on educating the masses and changing the laws ?
    What about (first step) ratifying the Kyoto protocol ?

    Talking the trash away from your eyes is just hiding the problem of plastic use. The solution of this problem is about education, and politics. Educating new generations, changing the laws, ENFORCING new regulations
    And this attitude of creating another problem instead of attacking the causes of the problem is very typical of first world.
    It´s merely a confession of weakness, that the education system cannot be changed, that the political system also cannot be changed, and the false hope that technology will solve everything,

    I´m sorry to say that, but I see that as very hypocrite and irresponsible, shifting responsibilities, and denying that a solution IS possible. And the first world will have to change deeply their consumption habits for that. The solution goes through education, politics, worldwide ecological regulations, controlling multinationals, deeply changing habits, and it´s a direction that appears purely inapplicable to US and North America (hopefully, for the moment), because both the the political and education system is driven by greed.

    1. You couldn’t be more right yet I couldn’t disagree with you more.

      Whilst yes, education, polictics and changing peoples view on use and disposal of “objects” would be fantastic unfortuantely people just don’t give a hoot about their environment/world they live in. I think moving from where we are today to what you describe would be almost impossible, however I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it.

      But where is the harm in a short-medium term solution to back up the longer-term solution? If every beach you went to had an army of these things picking up your litter and taking a picture of you every time you left some I think it would start changing public opinion much quicker than a lecture from a politician.

      I do think you’ve missed the point a little about “presenting a plastic made solution”, this is plastic because it’s cheap and easy for prototyping. There’s no reason this couldn’t be made out of recylded seaweed in the future or even something better to get the point across.

      1. What about starting by forbidding plastic bags ? And putting a tax on plastic households items to finance research / use on bioplastics and alternate materials ? Forbidding fracking ? Putting a deposit on containers / bottles like many countries do ? Standardizing packages of all household intem in let´s say 20-30 different defined sizes / shapes / materials like Lego bricks.
        Oh that would not please marketing / advertising / energy lobbies, and would probably not happen because it is contradicting their interests.
        In this context, it´s very doubtful that technology will solve the problem, even partially. it´s a plaster (plastic) cast on a wooden leg.

        Global problems need global solutions. Global solutions can only found if global politics and regulations are enforced. Obviously there are not many countries ready to hear that, and i cannot see what could bring that change, except a global catastrophe. But aren´t we heading to that ?

  2. I don’t think that all the garbage ends up in the oceans, that would be a gross overstatement. Most of the garbage ends up and stays in landfills. While that’s not a solution, it’s a completely different problem, so that statements has no place in this article. Hackaday is becoming more and more yellow day after day – or is it just Benchoff? :D

  3. Very well written up – still a bit hard to get a picture of what’s happening and how much of it is already working autonomously, but that’s mainly due to hackaday.io having no index list for the description.
    I wonder if this project started as part of a MSc project or something, and/or if “robot missions” is/will be a real company

  4. I think every disposable item should show your ID and any other info that needs to be presented when buying said item. Yes, printed on the item, many times over not just once where it’s easy to obliterate. Perhaps in a anonymized code that is linked to a federal database. Otherwise in the clear, no kidding. Voter ID is one thing, but you’re not leaving this fast food joint or convenience store with un-ID’ed plastic trash. Children cannot buy candy in a plastic wrapper without supervision and an adult ID. Unless in a restaurant with a dishwasher, fast food trash must last on the surface of this Earth only just as long as the meal it self.

    With 300 to 500 million people on Earth we could dispense with such action, otherwise…

    On the other hand this device could pay for it’s existence by “printing’ adverts everywhere it goes, this has been done before!
    Like Buddhist monks on a sand painting we will scatter the image, so will the birds, crabs, turtles, and wind.

    1. having lived near a KFC, Maca’s and other junk food places with drive through service, I think this is a great idea.
      making it simpler by scanning vehicle number plates and printing the number on junk food wrappers, bags and cups would be easy and work.

      Enforcement is a big issue though, I’ve seen coppers simply ignore wankers chucking litter on the road, I’ve tried getting coppers to at least say something to pigs tossing crap on the road.
      It is a $100 on the spot fine here if you get caught tossing crap, dumping is a huge fine and KESAB always prosecute.

      Here in SA we have a container deposit scheme, you get 10 cents at recycling depots for drink containers, cartons, glass bottles and plastic containers.
      The difference it makes in the level of roadside trash is amazing!
      you can see the difference as soon as you cross the border into Victoria and NSW.

      1. >making it simpler by scanning vehicle number plates and printing the number on junk food wrappers, bags and cups
        >would be easy and work.
        Oh yes, even more surveillance, what a great idea! Remember to provide the collected data to health assurance to make people eating to much junk pay more than others.

        Seriously, WTF?? What about educating people? Of course, it’s more difficult and you (the government) won’t get more data to mess with.

        1. lol
          I am definitely NOT a “good citizen” or “friend of the government”!!

          A couple of places where I camp on private property I got permission because I bagged up an appalling amount of trash left by idiots, on several occasions.
          Whenever I go bush walking, I take a bag to collect any rubbish I see, it’s something I’ve always done.

          South Australia is has a great record for being clean, only because of legislation, backed by heavy fines.
          Back in the 1960’s when I was a kid, roadside dumping happened all the time.
          The litter laws came in, it became less of a problem, now it rarely happens.

          Actions have consequences doesn’t seem to sink in with some folk!!

    2. “fast food trash must last on the surface of this Earth only just as long as the meal it self”

      ehmmm… I think you are not aware of the possible lifespan of a hamburger, certain brands can be kept for many many years: http://www.cnbc.com/2015/02/19/is-this-the-worlds-oldest-mcdonalds-burger-and-would-you-eat-it.html

      But you are right, the packaging is a problem. Or actually the attitude of people discarding it.
      So although I like the idea of little Wall-e ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0910970/ ) on the beaches, it should be the attitude of people that must be changed. People buying the goods but also people selling and taking care of the poorly closed dumpsters, spilling all sorts of trash when the wind blows past the dumpster. This can be steered by law and it should be. Technology could certainly assist but may never be the solution for a problem we created ourselves and can be solved by simply changing our behaviour. Because if we have little wall-e taking care of our trash, then why should we even bother to walk to the trashbin, wall-e will take care of it. And then trash is piling up on places were there is no wall-e (but people expected it to be) and then we have created a new problem… elsewhere.

      Also, please do not print my name on a can or bottle, because when animals or bad people might take it out and throw it on the ground, I will be responsible for something I did not do. I do no want to go to jail… I’m too young… (at heart, at least).

    3. The biggest consequence I could see from that would be that a large number of supposedly not disposable items would suddenly start being disposed of. Packaging would simply be made more robust and advertised as being reusable, leading to more waste.

    4. Horrible shortsighted flaw in that there is literally no way to tell if the person who you are issuing a ticket to is actually the person responsible for littering. There is the possibility that it was them but there is also the possibility that it was someone else pulling trash out of a bin and littering just to mess with people and there is also the possibility that it was animals knocking over a bin looking for food at 3am.

      The only way it would halfway function would be if a police officer saw someone throw something out their car window. Stopped them, they attempted to argue that it wasn’t theirs and the markings on the trash proved otherwise. However that only acts as a very slight reinforcement of what was already a first hand account of littering.

      1. if it’s based off vehicle number plates and you are the driver, then it’s your responsibility.
        getting a ticket for something like “limb protruding”, if it’s the passenger then then the driver and passenger both get a ticket.

        this is something folks need to realise, as a driver you are responsible for your passengers.

        this is why I’m really careful who I take out on a boat.

        people need to realise that actions have consequences, it’s not that hard a concept to grasp

        1. Again the issue isn’t if the officer sees them littering by all means slam the driver and passengers with tickets. However that isn’t the issue that makes applying IDs to disposable items problematic and ultimately unenforceable.

          If an officer, ranger or trash-monitor picks up a piece of trash with your ID on it and I do mean YOUR id. Assuming you make it a specific point not to litter…. there are any number of ways your trash can end up blighting the ecosystem that have nothing to do with you. So because you threw your trash away/recycled it properly do you think you should pay a fine because someone else went rummaging through a dumpster or a garbage collector was lazy?

          Because that is what would happen if they tried to enforce something like this, responsible people would be paying thousands upon thousands in fines for irresponsible jackasses. Who ironically enough would not be held responsible for anything, because the litter they where spreading wouldn’t have their ID on it.

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