Robotic Trash Can Wants Your Garbage

Stanford University researchers built the remotely-controlled robot in order to test how humans reacted to it in a natural setting.


(Robotic trashcan diagram)

Several groups of people willingly tossed their trash into the trash can robot; others simply ignored the robot. But some people seemed compelled to give the robot what they thought it wanted — trash — without having any on hand. One group of people tore off the bottom of their order receipt to “feed” the robot. When researchers asked them about that action, they said they thought the robot “wanted” trash.

“People in general seem to believe that the robot has some intrinsic desire for trash,” said Stephen Yang, a Ph.D. student in engineering at Stanford University. “In other words, people believe that the robot wants trash rather than just serving a purely functional purpose. As a consequence, we’ve seen cases where people would attempt to attract or bait the robot with trash.”

In his 1959 short story Robot Justice, Harry Harrison wrote about a far more evolved robotic trash can that takes planetary cleanliness to a high level. However, I think the local robotic trash can from Bruce Sterling's 1988 novel Islands in the Net is closer:

She looked up the beach for the local trash can.

She spotted it loitering near a pair of fisherman, who stood in hip boots in the gentle surf. She called out. "Trash can!"

The can pivoted on broad rubber treads and rolled toward her voice. It snuffled across the beach, mapping its way with bursts of infrasound….
(Read more about the high tech trash can)

Via A Robotic Trash Can in the Field and Discover Mag.

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