How robots are helping to save the planet

At first thought, you might assume robots and artificial intelligence are not something that complement nature and protecting planet Earth.

In fact, we regularly see sci-fi movies of robots taking over, destroying humans and the planet.

We see films set in the future with industrialised lands of grey for miles and miles, with polluted cloudy skies and no green left to be seen.

Whilst the threat of AI taking over our planet one day could one day be a reality and not just something of movies, it’s also just as likely that we are going to destroy our planet, or at least the human race, through human activities and pollution.

We already know we are suffocating our planet with plastic and may even be speeding up climate change from transport pollution and eating unsustainable diets filled with meat and dairy.

So what if the solution lies in artificial intelligence?  What if AI can save our planet instead of destroying it?

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How robots are helping to save Earth

Whilst the thought of technology taking over can be scary, there are a lot of ways that new technology and robots can actually help to save the planet!

That’s right.  There are several ways in which artificial intelligence can actually improve our planet Earth, make us live more sustainably and assist us in reducing pollution and tackling recycling.

Rather than fear AI, we are able to use this technology to our advantage and improve our planet.

Robots and artificial intelligence are not going anywhere.  In recent years we have seen technology sneak into our homes and our lives more than ever before.

It’s crazy to think that I didn’t even have the internet and a laptop until I was 21 years old, yet nowadays internet access is a basic human right and I depend upon the internet to make my living and my smartphone to do a range of basic daily activities.

We are beginning to depend upon AI and use it to make our everyday lives easier.  We can control heating, lights and even door locks remotely thanks to our smartphones.  There are smart plugs, smart blinds and smart doorbells.  There are even cars being invented that can drive themselves!

AI is getting smarter and can be used for so many things nowadays, including helping us in our sustainable missions.  We need to embrace this technology and use it for the good it can do.

Read on to discover some of the ways robots are helping to save our planet!

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Recycling

Only a tiny percentage of our waste gets recycled.  Though the UK provides household recycling schemes, there are still several plastics that aren’t recycled and many of us throw out contaminated materials.  What can be collected varies by each county too, with many people still throwing unaccepted items or items they are unsure about into the landfill waste.

Even though we think we’re doing our part and recycling what we can, we have no idea where our recycling really ends up.  In fact, it’s widely reported that we have only recycled around 9% of plastic waste created since 1950!

Manually sorting recycling takes time and costs money, so contaminated batches have been sent abroad simply passing on our recycling problem, or recycling just ends up going to the landfill or incinerators anyway, thus increasing pollution levels and landfill waste.

It is a job humans can do, but it’s dirty, difficult, noisy and can be dangerous.

So how can AI help?

Sorting robots can be created to identify different materials and recyclables on a conveyor.  It can distinguish between the different types of recyclable materials and sort them into the appropriate bins.  It can also remove actual waste or contaminated items.

Global specialists IVS create automated quality control vision systems that can be used in all sorts of sectors including recycling.  Combining vision systems with machine learning software will enable the robots to continue to identify more and more materials.

Robots are quicker than humans at sorting recycling so it will save money and can potentially even become more accurate.  It’s possible for the machines to even learn the many different types of plastics and to sort these accurately.

Protecting vulnerable habitats and preventing soil erosion

Engineers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University have developed a robot called Romu to help with stabilising vulnerable habitats and preventing soil erosion.

Erosion caused by agriculture, increasing storms, mining and construction combined with rising sea levels means beaches and coastal cities are threatened.

To build dams and other large structures costs a lot of money and requires large machinery that is also very polluting of the environment.

Romu is a lightweight robot that can efficiently build sheet piles to secure and protect vulnerable habitats.  This can help to prevent soil erosion in a more eco-friendly way than heavy machinery.

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Cleaning oceans

Sadly our oceans are no longer clean with micro plastics being found far out to sea, poisoning fish and birds.

Then there’s litter actually being dumped it the sea.

Oh yes it really happens and it’s really bad.  I watched an undercover on a cruise ship programme and there was footage of black bin liners stuffed with rubbish being thrown overboard into the sea!

And then there’s the problem of oil spills.  In 2010 the equivalent of 4.9million barrels of oil was dumped into the Gulf of Mexico after an explosion at a BP drilling rig!

AI could be the answer to help clean up the ocean after disasters like this.  Inventor Cesar Harada has created a robotic boat called Protei which can navigate through the water like a fish, collecting data and absorbing the oil to clean up the ocean.

He believes he can create boats that can sense radioactivity, count fish and take images of coral reef.

Fighting air pollution

AI can also be used in so many clever ways to tackle air pollution and help to reduce it.

Ever been frustrated at the pollution you are causing whilst stuck at a red light for several minutes and no other cars are even around?

That’s the sort of thing AI technology can start to help with as smart traffic lights will ensure the continual and optimal flow of traffic.  If you’re approaching a red light and there’s no one coming the other way then the lights will change so you can continue.  This is much more environmentally friendly than how traffic lights work currently on timers.

Driving around looking for a parking space is tedious, time consuming and air polluting, so smart parking systems that can send information of available parking spaces to drivers in real time can reduce the time spent looking for a space.

Self-driving cars may also be able to reduce air pollution and fuel consumption.  They’ll allow for the best route to be taken and enable more efficient driving patterns.

Robots aren’t something we should be fearful of in the 21st century, but something we should use to our and the planet’s advantage.

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