Robotic Street Cleaners Welcomed by New YorkersRobotic Street Cleaners Welcomed by New Yorkers
Two of the robotic trash cans were deployed in Greenwich Village, to largely positive response
March 27, 2023
New York residents have shown a positive response to robotic street cleaners.
A new study from Cornell University researchers found New Yorkers are not only receptive to the robotic assistants, but also made an effort to find trash to give them, clear obstacles from their path, and help stabilize them if they encountered uneven terrain.
The study examined human-robot interaction in Greenwich Village last year, with two of the robotic trash cans deployed in a busy area. The robotic design is simple, consisting of a 32-gallon can on a hoverboard base containing a Raspberry Pi 4 minicomputer and a 360-degree camera.
While the design appeared to be autonomous, the robots were controlled by unseen human operators, in what the researchers said was intended to “elicit natural interaction behaviors.”
“Our video shows that people in public generally welcome the robots, that the robots encourage social interaction among strangers, that people feel pressure to generate garbage for the robots, and that people's interactions assume the robots' awareness of each other,” the researchers said.
"By studying interactions with robots in public spaces, we can better understand the range of behaviors and norms that robots will need to manage autonomously in longer-term deployments."
The report was presented at the Conference on Human-Robot Interaction in Stockholm last week and was published as a Companion to the 2023 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction.
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