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Cigarette butts are a serious problem and a grand total of 4.5 trillion cigarette butts end up in our environment each year. It’s very problematic when the butts end up around bodies of water, since the fibrous fragments of cigarette filters can take up to 14 years to break down. Their toxic content poisons marine life such as turtles, fish and seabirds. Happily the BeachBot now exists.
The BeachBot, or BB for short, is a mobile beach-cleaning robot which uses an AI-detection algorithm to pick up the cigarettes from the sand and dispose of them into safe bins. BB is created by entrepreneurs Edwin Bos and Martijn Lukaart and the AI-algorithm is created by TechTics, a consultancy based in The Hague, also founded by Bos and Lukaart, in collaboration with students from the Delft University of Technology.
In order to train BB to find the butts, the robot was supplied with millions of photos of cigarettes. During its demo run in The Hague, BB was able to gather 20 cigarette butts in half an hour. According to Business Insider, BeachBot is around 80-centimeters wide, and it has two onboard cameras that it uses to look ahead and look down. The bot is also designed to avoid people and objects. To grab the cigarette butts, BB uses two gripper arms that it lowers and then pushes into the sand. The cigarette butts are then thrown into an internal bin. It can currently run for an hour on battery power.
Thanks to BBs training, the robot can keep learning, meaning that in the future it can also be able to identify other litter. Bos and Lukaart said to Designboom:
“We start with cigarette butts. That’s the world’s most littered item… in the future, we want the robots to detect a range of other litter.”