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City envy: we want a trash-collecting robot like Chicago

Written by
Kyra Hanson

Here’s a rubbish stat for you: the Thames spews out 18 tonnes of plastic into the ocean every year. Wouldn’t it be great if you could clean it all up without even getting your big toe wet? Well, across the Pond some techheads have created an interactive game that could allow you to do just that.

After beginning a project to create a mile-long floating garden on the Chicago River, local non-profit organisation Urban Rivers quickly realised it needed to do something about the accumulation of trash first. Frustrated with the slow task of clearing up by hand, the team has built a robot which can patrol the waters 24/7, collecting and disposing of floating debris as it goes. It kind of looks like something out of ‘Robot Wars’ – only with a crowd-programmed social conscience.

The Trash Robot still needs to be fully tested to make sure it’s both waterproof and hack-proof. Once that’s done, anyone with an internet connection and a strong sense of direction will be able to control it as it scoots around picking up rubbish. (Don’t worry: it will automatically return to base should it start to veer off course.) The bot is being trialled in July and the team aims to have the fully functioning robot in the river by August.

‘We really hope that one day this game will be so boring because there’ll be no more trash left,’ says co-founder Nick Wesley. Until that day, you can do your bit for the environment without even shifting from your sofa.

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