Chicago Has Launched a Trash-Eating River Robot That Anyone Can Pilot Remotely

Trash Collecting Robot in the Chicago River

The next time you stroll past the Chicago River, keep your eyes peeled for a little raft scooping up trash along the river banks. This clever TrashBot is the innovation of Urban Rivers, a non-profit that has already built a floating garden in the river. TrashBot, which was successfully funded on Kickstarter, is a much needed, interactive method of clearing garbage from the water and helps make the river a cleaner environment for the wildlife that call it home.

The story of TrashBot began when Urban Rivers set up their floating garden in the Chicago River. While the installation was a success, the team noticed that the area was becoming overwhelmed by the trash that was floating in the river. At first, they tried to collect the trash by hand, going out on kayaks daily to pick up the floating garbage. However, it was soon apparent that something much more robust was needed, as the trash continued to accumulate.

After assembling a task force to study the best way to tackle the problem, TrashBot was born. Essentially a sophisticated remote control boat, TrashBot herds garbage into designated locations, where it is then collected and sorted. Simple and effective, TrashBot is also fun to maneuver. In fact, it's so entertaining that Urban Rivers wanted to let anyone who was willing to give it a try. To that end, they've made TrashBot interactive and, after it goes live at the end of the month, users will be able to log into the Urban Rivers website and take a turn piloting the boat.

“The technology used for [building our robot] is derived from what you’d use for building a cheap drone,” explains Nick Wesley, one of the co-founders of Urban Rivers. “It’s also now possible to stream video with real low-latency. That perfect storm enables really interesting remote presence projects in environments just like the Chicago River. Taking advantage of this, letting people take control of a robot to clean up trash, makes for a really cool experience.”

If all goes well, they're hoping to expand the number of robots in the Chicago River and take the technology to other waterways in need of cleanup.

TrashBot is a remote controlled boat that helps clear the Chicago River of garbage.

River Pollution Trash Pickup in the Chicago River

An interactive system lets anyone log in and pilot the raft as it searches for trash and debris.

Trash Collecting Robot in the Chicago River

Learn more about how TrashBot is combating pollution and cleaning the Chicago River.

Urban Rivers: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
h/t: [Digital Trends]

All images via Urban Rivers.

Related Articles:

Floating ‘Trash Wheels’ Clean Up 1 Million Pounds of Debris in Baltimore’s Harbor

Floating Gardens in the Chicago River Designed to Create Urban Wildlife Sanctuary

Floating Park in Rotterdam Is Made Entirely of Recycled Plastic Harvested From River

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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