This 'BeachBot' Uses AI To Clean Up Beach Litter

Dec 31, 2021by Olivia - F&F

Two Dutch entrepreneurs have not only designed a robot that can identify and remove small items of litter from beaches, they’ve also developed a game that strengthens the AI capabilities of the ‘BeachBot’. It sounds like something out of a Sci-Fi movie, but this clever little robot could actually create a world without beach litter!

BeachBot Robot Project BBBeachBot Robot Project BB

Dutch Entrepreneurial Duo Behind ‘Project.BB’

Project.BB began with Martijn Lukaart and Edwin Bos, two entrepreneurs from The Hague in the Netherlands. The duo were angered by the amount of small litter, especially cigarette butts, scattered over Scheveningen Beach in Holland. So, they wanted to design a robot to automatically clean up the mess! 

BeachBot, their first creation, is a robot capable of driving around, detecting trash, and picking it up. The most fascinating part of the BeachBot is its ability to use image recognition and learn from its mistakes. BeachBot works using artificial intelligence — it’s a self-learning algorithm that can make connections, called the Convolutional Neural Network (CNN). 

Soon, BeachBot will be able to estimate the probability of what’s ahead, what the litter is and what to pick up, using AI.

BeachBot MAPP Artificial IntelligenceBeachBot MAPP Artificial Intelligence

BeachBot Collects Cigarette Butts & Small Pieces Of Litter

Did you know that around 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are discarded annually? So, it makes sense that these pesky butts are the most common form of litter — especially on our beaches. BeachBot was specifically designed to pick up small pieces of litter, but cigarette butts are the primary target.

According to the team at Project.BB, “if a cigarette butt ends up in the sea during tidal changes, one butt is enough to pollute hundreds of litres of water. The filters not only contain plastic, but also a cocktail of toxic substances.

Project.BB recognised that despite many beach clean-up initiatives and the use of beach clean-up tractors on Holland’s beaches, small litter items remained in the sand.

Project BB Team BeachBotProject BB Team BeachBot

You Can Help To ‘Train’ BeachBot By Identifying Litter!

BeachBot is extremely smart, but the little robot needs our help to identify all the bizarre things it comes across on the beach. Exposing BeachBot to more photos of litter means that its algorithm recognises the shapes and colours of common litter items, faster! Here’s the coolest part — soon, you’ll be able to play a mobile game to train BeachBot’s artificial intelligence

“When I'm not sure what type of litter is in front of me, I will take a photo with a GPS tag. I'll ask the public to advise me online via a mobile app and with the support of a mixed reality game. I'll ask you "what is this?" And will then ask you to annotate and label the photo. This information is sent back to me. So basically, you can make me smarter!”

BeachBot MAPP Beach RobotsBeachBot MAPP Beach Robots

Could We See BeachBots Roaming On Aussie Beaches?

Short answer: maybe! But, for the entrepreneurial Dutch duo — Martijn Lukaart and Edwin Bos — BeachBot is working to solve a largely preventable problem. People knowingly discard plastics and cigarette butts, without thinking about the immediate and long-term impacts on marine life.

So, for Lukaart and Bos, “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."

Their newest creation, the ‘MAPP Detection Robots’, communicate with each other to collaboratively hunt for litter and map out the data! They operate in outdoor spaces and send “removal requests” to BeachBot when they’ve encountered litter. Essentially, the robots will work as a team!

What do you think of these AI-powered beach-cleaning robots? It’s amazing how anyone in the public can ‘train’ the robots to become more efficient at picking up trash, just by playing a game! In the future, we’d love to see them picking up small litter items on Aussie beaches. Head to Project.BB to read more about these awesome robotic creations and the team behind them. 

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