Cigarette butts are one of the most littered items in the world, and they’re especially hard to clean up on a hot, sandy beach. To help mitigate the problem, Dutch company TechTics designed BeachBot (or BB), a robot that exists solely to clean the beach of cigarette butts.
While cigarette butts may seem like a low-priority problem, they actually present a bigger threat to wildlife than plastic candy wrappers or other forms of litter. After all, cigarette filters are made of non-biodegradable plastic fibers and contain all the chemicals (arsenic, nicotine, etc) that we associate with cigarettes.
TechTics built the BeachBot’s AI using Microsoft’s Trove machine learning system, which uses real-world photographers to find unique, educational images for AI (in this case, pictures of cigarette butts on the beach). Still, BeachBot needs a lot of training, as it can be difficult (even for a person) to spot a crusty old stogie in the lumpy, bumpy sands of a beach.
To help regular people train the BeachBot AI, TechTics is working on a mobile game. While the details of this game are a bit unclear, it sounds like players will drive a virtual BeachBot and identify any waste that they come across. TechTics is also interested in a VR app, which could let you ride in a BeachBot while it works.
BeachBot is still in the early stages of its development, so don’t expect to meet one at a beach anytime soon. You can subscribe to the BeachBot newsletter if you want to keep up with the device.