"Hey, pick up your trash!" No, that wasn't me talking. It was that little robotic trash can. It knows when there's garbage in the vicinity and asks humans to pick the refuse up.
The wheeled Social Trash Box, or STB, robot out of Japan's Toyohashi University of Technology comes equipped with a microprocessor, a video camera, and a speaker for making its desires for cleanliness heard. Motors enable it to twist right and left and bend backward and forward. A pyroelectric infrared sensor lets it detect people's body heat and move toward them, while a distance sensor helps it maneuver around them (and other obstacles).
As you'll see from this video, the red and blue STBs might well tie with this Android robot trash for the title of world's cutest garbage bin. Which is probably intentional, as Toyohashi's Interaction and Communications Design Lab engineered it to interact with children.
It "engages using interactive social cues and vocal interactions to build a social coupling with children in order to induce their assistance in collecting trash," the lab says. For now, the Social Trash Box appears to be more of a tool for studying kids' interactions with collaborative robots than a futuristic garbage can you'll see at baseball games.It's not surprising that this isn't the first refuse-related robot to emerge from Japan, which in some places has four separate garbage collection days for burnable garbage, non-burnable garbage, certain kinds of plastic, and recyclables like newspapers and printed matter. A recycling robot out of Osaka University uses lasers to sort plastics. And a Japanese inventor modded a wastebasket to catch trash for you.
The Social Trash Box has been in the works for a couple of years, but it just made an appearance at the iRex robot trade show in Tokyo. Crave's Tim Hornyak attended the show; you can see his photos below.