Future of housework 6 – bin night

This is a simple one – but, nevertheless I reckon it could be very useful.

Taking the bins out, and bringing them back in again, is a pretty simple task, one that children the developed world over are tasked with. It’s also a pain in the neck if it’s cold, raining, you’re away on bin night, or worst of all if you forget to take the bins out!

It’s a simple enough task, in fact, that it just screams out for a robot to do it.

The beauty of a robot wheelie bin – or a wheelie bin mover – is the simplicity of the task. While a full wheelie bin can be quite heavy, they don’t need to be moved in any particular hurry – in fact, you would want it to move very slowly for safety. There’s no need for complex hands, legs, or anything like that.

From a hardware engineering point of view, there would be a number of challenges, most notably whether the robotics would stay attached to the bin at all times, including when emptied into the truck, or would be physically separate. Achieving sufficient stability to avoid spillage would also be a challenge. But these are all likely to be fairly easily solvable. The Wheeliesafe electric bin trolley, indeed, solves many of the issues.

The software problems for the robot are the interesting ones:

  • to be able to navigate to a position where the truck can pick it up, possibly avoiding static obstacles
  • to detect obstacles moving into its path and stop immediately if such an obstacle is detected.
  • to open garage doors or gates and ensure that they are closed.
  • These all pose their own challenges, not least to ensure that any closed door is not left open, and particularly if you assume “dumb” infrastructure (such as existing electrically operated garage doors). But it seems to me that these are all solvable in the medium term.

    And it would be a fun engineering project!

    These high school kids have had a partial crack, but it’s not clear whether it’s simply a remote-controlled wheelie bin or truly autonomous. Using a solar panel to charge the bin is pretty smart.

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One Response to Future of housework 6 – bin night

  1. Why stop there – have the bins automatically take themselves to the depot! Or at least, avoid the need for the truck to drive down every single street, just stopping at defined collection points on major roads. But yes, it’s surprising this sort of thing has been so slow to manifest itself. If someone had suggested this 20 years ago I would have been certain it would be commonplace by now.

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