What is Project.BB?
On our (Martijn Lukaart and Edwin Bos, two entrepreneurs from The Hague) initiative, a team from TU Delft built a prototype of a beach robot, the BeachBot. The robot is specially made to help keep the beaches clean, by cleaning up small litter.The prototype uses a trained image recognition algorithm for machines and can already recognize cigarette butts. The robot picks up a cigarette that is recognized with sufficient certainty and throws it into its waste bin. If the robot does not recognize waste, people will be called in to help. In this way we hope to create more awareness about litter.
How did you come up with the idea?
We are from The Hague ourselves and are often on the beach. We see that there is still a lot of rubbish left on the beach and thought: "shouldn't that be possible? Many initiatives are already being taken to keep the beach clean, including an organization such as TrashUre Hunt, but also through the Clean Campaign of the municipality with Pat Smith as ambassador. We also want to do our part. In this case, by deploying new technology to see if we can help solve this problem.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Shooting a cigarette butt is an unconscious action for many smokers, but an example of how we as humans deal with waste. Annually, about 2,000 billion cigarette butts are thrown into public spaces, leaving a large proportion of them in the environment and also on the beach and ultimately the sea. We want to protect nature and people by ultimately initiating behavioral change with higher awareness.
Why focus on small litter?
We decided to focus on small waste, including cigarette filters but also various small plastics, because that is what remains with the current cleaning facilities. After beach days, tractors, so-called beach cleaners, drive on the beach, but they only take the bulky waste with them because the shells have to remain.
Why special attention for butts? And not, for example, plastic or tin?
If a cigarette butt ends up in the sea during tidal changes, one butt is enough to pollute hundreds of liters of water. The cigarette filters do not decay and decompose into microplastics. The filters not only contain plastic, but also a cocktail of toxic substances: arsenic (rat poison!), Lead, nicotine and pesticides. If the discarded filter breaks up, those chemicals seep into the ground or water and sooner or later also enter our food system.
What does the pilot with the municipality of The Hague mean?
We are going to work on an experimental basis around the beach pavilions in Scheveningen at the Zwarte Pad. The experiments should start a discussion about how we deal with litter and the use of robots in outdoor areas.
What will you test?
The robot still has a lot to learn, but is already able to drive around, detect cigarette butts and remove those mechanically. We need to make the robot more robust and will conduct various experiments to learn how we can improve the hardware and software. Project.BB is mainly intended to create more awareness about litter. The robot serves as a demonstrator and firestarter to start a discussion about the litter issue and the need for a robotic solution. With Project.BB we want to involve people and interact through gamification. Together with them we want to train the detection algorithm and make this process fully transparent so we can all learn how this works.
When can we see the robot on the beach?
Do not immediately expect miracles, the robot is still very slow in this phase and is still far from efficient. We are working hard on this in the workshop at RoboHouse in Delft. We plan to give a demo on the beach during the year, perhaps this summer, and we hope to take the robot out on the beach a few times to learn what is not going well yet.
Is this for the longer term?
Rather not. It is not our ambition that in the long term a lot of robots will drive on the beach. Above all, we hope that the robot makes people think about how they can help keep the beach clean and also make them aware of the problem of litter, so that they decide to clean up their mess themselves.
How can people help the robot?
We are now developing a game app with which you can run a digital version of the robot on the beach and hunt for rubbish. If you find it, you will be asked to label an image, so that you can teach the robot that it is, for example, a french fry fork. With that information you actually train the robot's algorithm.We are also developing a Virtual Reality application with which you can virtually take a seat in the robot and there are plans to help and control the robot remotely and directly, for which we want to create a tele-presence application for the tele-operation. see what the robot sees and immediately help the robot to recognize waste.
Are you looking for help?
Definitely! We are still looking for engineers, game developers, sponsors and partners to help us with this project. You can contact us via our website project.bb and subscribe to the newsletter.