Trading Bird Food For Cigarette Butts

Positive reinforcement is the process of getting someone to understand their actions result in a reward. Children get a sweet treat when they pick up all their toys and older ones might get some cash for mowing the lawn. From the perspective of the treat-giver, this is like turning treats into work. A Dutch startup wants to teach the crow population to pick up cigarette butts in exchange for bird treats.

The whole Corvidae family of birds is highly intelligent so it shouldn’t be a problem training them that they will get a reward for depositing something the Hominidae family regularly throw on the street where the birds live. This idea is in turn an evolution of the open-source Crow Box.

For some, leveraging the intelligence of animals is more appealing than programming drones which could do the same thing. A vision system mixed with a drone and a manipulator could fulfull the same function but animals are self-repairing and autonomous without our code. The irony of this project is that, although it’s probably fairly easy to train crows to recognize cigarette butts, the implementation hinges on having a vision system that can recognize the butts in order to properly train the crows in the first place.

If we had the time to train crows, it would definitely be to poop on cars that don’t signal for turns. Maybe some of these winged devices can be programmed to recognize lapses in traffic laws in exchange for some electrons.

Thank you, [jo_elektro], for the tip.

 

Amazingly Realistic Skeleton Prop

[Cjmekeel] spent weeks getting his Halloween display ready this year. The centerpiece of his offering is this full-sized motorized skeleton. But there’s a few other gems that he worked on to compliment it. There’s an old-fashioned radio whose dial moves mysteriously and plays a news flash warning of an escaped mental patient. He also spent a couple of dollars to outfit a crow with some glowing red eyes and a servo motor.

But the creepiness of the skeleton means you might not even notice those other props. He started with a rather boring looking plain plastic head and did some real magic to build up the rotting flesh and gaping wounds. Those penetrating eyes don’t hurt either. The head moves on a few servo motors which use random values and sleep periods for disturbingly jerky movements. Check out the video after the break to get a glimpse at what kept kids away from his house on Halloween.

This is just a build log and unfortunately there’s no post yet showing the finished product. If we can get enough information together we’ll try to run a follow-up.

Continue reading “Amazingly Realistic Skeleton Prop”

Year In Ideas

kneebrace

The New York Times has published their 8th annual Year in Ideas. It’s a collection of interesting research and policy changes that have happened in the last year. They cover several projects that we’ve found noteworthy in the past. Pictured above is [Max Donelan]’s power generating knee brace. It generates power as you perform mundane daily activities. Another pick was the Brickley Engine. It has a unique piston layout to reduce friction for increased efficiency. We were particularly interested in the research that discovered drone pilots become exhausted far quicker than pilots in real aircraft. It’s doubtful that this problem of “sensory isolation” will go away and we wonder what other fields it might appear in. They even mention [Josh Klein]’s crow vending machine. You’ll find something to pique your interest in the Year of Ideas, even if it’s DNA forensics for dog poop.

[via Waxy]