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Robotics Technology

Robotic Bins and Benches in Cambridge 138

OldBus writes "According to the BBC robotic bins and benches have been installed in Cambridge. According to the article, they 'move and chuckle' and 'sing when the sun comes out.'" From the article: "Mr Bogen hopes the cutting edge technology would help keep the bins and benches safe from theft. The Junction has a three year maintenance contract with Greyworld and plans to name all the bins and benches individually to make carrying out repairs easier."
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Robotic Bins and Benches in Cambridge

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  • Less likely theft? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 11, 2005 @05:28AM (#12788017)
    I'd be more likely to steal a bin or bench that talks and makes 'rude noises'.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 11, 2005 @06:09AM (#12788093)
      "Mr Bogen hopes the cutting edge technology would help keep the bins and benches safe from theft."

      Yeah, cause we all know theives steer away from cutting edge technology. New technology is like a new car. Once it drives off the lot it takes a big hit in resale value. Theives are wise and only steel old technology because its depreciation has stabilied.

      "They are what's called "generative" so that over time they develop more and more personality. You'll find that one bench may be particularly attracted to a particular bin. They will chuckle and giggle sometimes or make rude noises."

      I think it's great that we're encouraging public displays of affection between innatimate objects as long as it's not gay bin on bin or bench on bench action. Hopefully the maintainers can successfully get them to succcessfuly mate in this native environment so the project can spread and more people around the world can be delighted by their rude noises.

      "Artistic and executive director of The Junction, Paul Bogen, said: "They're great because they're fun and art should be fun and it should be something people enjoy and not just stodgy and theoretical.""

      I know I really hate the boring task of throwing away my trash while in public. I've been waiting for the day that someone would invent a moving trash can I'd have to chase around while it giggled and farted. Don't even get me started on taking a relaxing lunch break at a park, enjoying nature just wishing the bench would talk to me.

      "The project cost £110,000 and was funded by the Arts Council and the National Lottery. "

      The Arts Council and National Lottery have been overlooked for bigger civic projects for too long. This will teach the world not to overlook the genious lurkin within it's own governments. Hopefully they'll start taking a more prominent roles in other public works projects. Just imaging highway offramps in more beautiful shapes like tulips, famous faces, zebra stripes, or fat naked ladies. I'm personally tired of the old clover. Stairs that go up but wind up bringing you down and sideways. An elevator where you push 6 buttons and it randomly pics six floors (and a supplemental) to let you off at. It's not fun to press a buton and know that's where the elevator is going to stop and open it's doors to let you out. Where's the thrill? Where's the adventure? Where's the FUN?

    • by TummyX ( 84871 ) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @07:47AM (#12788320)
      Yes but when you try to steal the bench it screams and howls in terror.
    • by Cougem ( 734635 )
      I currently go to Cambridge Uni, Trinity college []. The entire population here, practically, is student. In central Cambridge there are virtually no houses, and yet a massive collegiate university. Putting these here during the end of the exam season, when we're all incredibly drunk is NOT the best time or place to put expensive bins around.

      I can smell numerous end of year scavenger hunts.
    • by jacksonj04 ( 800021 ) <> on Saturday June 11, 2005 @10:35AM (#12788829) Homepage
      Given students in Cambridge, it's more likely to find them with modified voice circuits and a kitchen plunger stuck to the top wandering around going "EXTERMINATE!" and "DESTROYYYY!"
    • plans to name all the bins and benches individually to make carrying out repairs easier.

      I'm a little curious how they're planning on naming []
  • Hang about. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by King_of_Prussia ( 741355 ) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @05:28AM (#12788018)
    Bins that sing and chuckle are going to be safer from theft? In what alternate universe does the article writer live in?
    • Well, I suppose in the sense that nobody will want to steal a bin that answers back...
    • You beat me to it!

      it's one of those things that you can look at and within 1 microsecond say to yourself 'I give them a week before they're stolen, covered in graffiti or vandalised".

      There's a fairly sleepy seaside town near me and the shopping area (a 1 minute walk from end to end) has just sprouted an all-stainless-steel 'information point' with a 17" LCD screen - I looked at it and within 1 microsecond.....
      • Yeah, I remember when they tried out that "yellow bicycle" concept in Austin. It worked great in Europe, evidently. However, Europe doesn't have Mexicans. Within a few weeks, most of the yellow bikes were nowhere to be found.
    • The people that are already predisposed to stealing benches and bins would consider these things friends they can talk to at home....or in an abandoned building.
    • I'm guessing they're counting on the annoyance factor of the bins to keep them safe. After all, would you really want a bin that kept chuckling creepily and trying to snuggle up to you?
    • Bins that sing and chuckle are going to be safer from theft? In what alternate universe does the article writer live in?

      Well, maybe they sing like my mom used to when she made dinner for her eight offspring (which believe me was a major production). It wasn't so much that she was off key (she was), but never sang an entire song. Oh, no. She'd just sing a snatch of the best bit, maybe just one line, over and over and over. And she used to chuckle -- at her own bad jokes and wisecracks.

      Come to think of
    • by Saeger ( 456549 )
      Bins that sing and chuckle are going to be safer from theft?

      Sure, when the bot's inertial and GPS sensors detect that it's being abused, it'll switch to shrieking car-alarm mode: "Bot-beater! Bot-napper! Help! *KLAXXON* I have your picture! I have 1000volts! Help!"

    • Bins that sing and chuckle are going to be safer from theft? In what alternate universe does the article writer live in?

      For that matter, what kind of dirty skank steals bins anyway? Not got enough rubbish of their own? Bloody students.

      • I'd have thought the same reason people steal cars: they can be gutted for the parts. All those electronics can probably fetch a nice sum for some broke student, and when you're carrying a bin around no-one suspects you of being a thief. You could probably return the bin afterwards as well so no-one would notice it was missing.
    • Wonderland (like in "Alice in...")
    • Bins that sing and chuckle are going to be safer from theft? In what alternate universe does the article writer live in?

      HELLO THERE!!! LOOKS LIKE YOU'RE TRYING TO STEAL ME!!! Would you like to know more about: Stealing, Robbing, prison, the cops that are coming from the left and were just alerted by me...?
  • Seems like more activity than most slashdotters I know!
    • Re:ever better! (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And most slashdotters you know don't push bullshit websites and spam either.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 11, 2005 @05:37AM (#12788035)
    EX TER mi NATE!

    DOC TOR!!
  • Yes, but... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Fallingcow ( 213461 ) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @05:37AM (#12788036) Homepage
    According to the article, they 'move and chuckle' and 'sing when the sun comes out.'

    Yeah, but do they sigh contentedly when used?
  • by ettlz ( 639203 ) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @05:40AM (#12788039) Journal
    Safe fom theft, yes. But this will not go down well. They're like twisted appliances from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. These bins will be a certain target for vandalism --- especially after they've annoyed the hell out of all-and-sundry with their cheerful singing. Pah! It just confirms what people in the UK have known all along: local councils are full of rubbish.
    • I hadn't thought of HG2G creatures, instead I thought of the Talkie Toaster from Red Dwarf.

      That little toaster put up with so much abuse.
      All it wanted to do was toast things.
      • They will ultimately be used for advertising. Consider this extract from a little-known film-noir:

        Week 1. A meeting with Marco in the high-street. I was a few minutes early, so I stopped in Starbucks and got a double mochachino with hundreds-and-thousands. I think there was some coffee in there somewhere. The street bins were out on patrol, and one of them trundled up to me. I dumped the empty cup in its receptacle.

        Why thank-you! Isn't it lovely today? The sun is out, not a bird in the sky. Have a nice

    • Somebody needs to look for "Sirius Cybernetics" on these things. I just can't wait for the failed one that got Marvin's firmware ;-)

      I've never been over there - I've been in the US all of my life....
      • I really can't believe you're the only other one that picked up on that and posted to the effect. First thing I thought of.

        - Listen, - said Ford, who was still engrossed in the sales brochure,
        - they make a big thing of the ship's cybernetics. A new generation of
        Sirius Cybernetics Corporation robots and computers, with the new GPP
        - GPP feature? - said Arthur. - What's that?
        - Oh, it says Genuine People Personalities.
        - Oh, - said Arthur, - sounds ghastly.
        A voice
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @06:17AM (#12788108) Homepage Journal
      These bins will be a certain target for vandalism

      I wonder what it would be like if you programmed these things to squeal in agony like a baby animal being tortured. We have a tendency to fill in human characteristics to anything that exhibits behavior we can fit into a human patter -- behavior we can find a human explanation for. People who live with an old car for a long time tend to personify it's mechanial quirks.

      Randomly breaking into song is just stupid elevator music, but singing to great the sunrise has a kind of charm to it.

      In any case, I'd bet exhibiting pain would deter many casual vandals. The ones who aren't deterred may be people you want to keep your eye on.
      • It sounds like you're not from the UK, and haven't visited in the last four or five years.

        You're ignoring the 'chav' mentality amongst many British youths, where the idea of fun of a Saturday night is to go out in a pack of about 30 and find actual humans to beat and hospitalize. If you've any spent any time in any reasonably large town in Britain after about 9PM, you'll know what I mean, and know that exhibiting pain is likely to draw more vandalism than it deters.

        Sad state of affairs, I know, but that's
        • I'll back you up on that, even though I'm an expat. I went 'home' recently for a flying visit and the centre of town (Swansea) had morphed from the reasonably calm (ish) regional centre I remembered into some kind of mad alcohol fueled anarchic mental asylum, with gangs of nutcases beating random objects and people in an alcoholic haze, as if somehow hoping it'd impress the half-dressed drunk chicks.

          I wasn't happy. I'm not used to feeling scared in my 'own' town (and I'm not a small defenseless lad either
        • No, that's just ordinary fear of youth.

          I was living in Chelmsford (Arguably the capitol of Chavdom) for about 6 months and all my older relatives were making this same complaint. A little worried I ventured into Chelmsford on a Friday evening and discovered this to be BS.

          Sure, some people drink to much. And sure, some kids are up to no good. Tell me again how this is unusual.

          Just like the recent scare of hoodies, it's mostly a misunderstanding of youth by adults. Sure some youngsters are genuinely da
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Perhaps the bins should squeal in 'pain' whenever used, and maybe even bitch and moan about people throwing all the garbage into them. And I don't just mean one line repeated over and over, I mean dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of lines, partially randomized and partially keyed to the weight (or other attributes) of the items being thrown away.

        I bet people would throw away every bit of trash they could find (and perhaps some things that aren't trash ;-) just to see how the trash can would react.

      • As someone, who like most people, took great pleasure in nuking/napalming/firebombing/running over large infantry formations in RTS games I would welcome the chance to beat a screaming bench without mercy. Is this because I'm some deranged sociopath with no heart or soul? No, it's because it's a bench, an inanimate bench, and people shouldn't be so upset if it's howling.
    • Well I think its admirable that they are taking the intiative to try and further improve the streets around Cambridge, although last time I visited Cambridge they already looked very good and clean (which is always the most important thing in my view).

      I think a further improvement would be to make these robotic bins have 'patches' of pavement/sidewalks to maintain.

      The vandalism problem shouldn't be too much a problem, Camrbidge already have ample CCTV cameras overlooking most of the centre streets and a d
    • I've been to Cambridge a few times and i was amazed at how little vandalism occurs considering how many students are there . Its a very nice city and is kept surprisingly clean and the campus i was staying at was immaculate. Living in the part of Germany i do now its common to see graffiti everywhere and its really depressing to see some beautiful old building ruined (and some ugly old DDR buildings as-well which is less annoying), but i have seen only one piece of graffiti in Cambridge . To be fair i have
    • We had singing trash bins at the local McDonalds' for quite some time. I remember them producing newspaper articles talking about how awesome it was that we lived in an age of singing trash bins.

      The next day, I come in and saw that the trash bins weren't singing anymore; some smartass had clipped the speaker wire with a pair of pliers. My hat is off to him/her/it.

      Personally, I'd make the garbage cans randomly scream in terror at passersby and defend themselves against attackers by means of an embedded
  • by hoka ( 880785 )
    with making everything hi-tech? I mean these days you can get just about anything that is wired, high-tech, and overdeveloped. Its technologies such as this that are nice as an art, but fail to really push the bounds of technology since they have limited applicability. Who wants to spend 110 grand on a set of garbage bins? Not me. Not anybody I know.

    While I applaud the effort for making it artsy and cool, trying to say that the technology is useful for anything else preemptively is well, marketing bullshit
    • How about robotic toilets to come next? You take a crap and the toilet goes "Thank you for shitting, have a nice day!"

      For an extra few pennies, the toilet analyses your crap and says "dude, you really should eat more fiber, stop drinking alcohol and eat some fruit"

      That would be a whole different meaning to "excremental humour"...
  • ...the doors on the "Heart of Gold" in the H2G2 movie... the ones that sigh.
  • by AstrumPreliator ( 708436 ) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @05:49AM (#12788060)
    It's like R2-D2's younger brother, R2-D3. He wasn't as successful as his older brother. He didn't get to travel the world with Jedi knights, instead he became a trash bin when he fell in love with a bench. He might not have the glamor of galactic battles, but he keeps the streets clean in his town!
  • by adrianbaugh ( 696007 ) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @05:54AM (#12788064) Homepage Journal
    Bins with Genuine People Personalities... I wonder if there isn't now at least one terminally depressed bench wandering around Cambridge. Life? Don't talk to me about life!
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @07:07AM (#12788227) Homepage Journal
      This was my thought too. The thing about the GPP devices in Hitchhiker's Guide isn't just that they reproduce the worst characteristics of people. You can't really interact with them in all the ways you would a human being. YOu can't go to their boss or their mother when they're not being cooperative. YOu can't bargain with them. The only thing that has any chance of working with them is threatening. It does raise an interesting possibility. What if you could interact with the bench or bin; not to the degree that it's personality affected its cooperativeness. For example:

      User: Bin, do yo have the time?

      Bin: It's quarter past nine. By the way the bins down 3rd street say there's a rain squall heading this way; you might want to duck inside until it passes.

      User: Is there a Starbucks around here?

      Bin: No, but there's an independent espresso shop at 150, just half a block north of here. They left a promotional message on me, would you like to here it?

      User: Uh, no thanks.

      (Later, in a different part of the city.)

      Joe: Bench, have you seen a girl named Mary?

      Bench: Somebody was sitting on me for about five minutes earlier this morning, but I don't know if that's who you're looking for. That was about 8 am.

      Joe: Well if she shows up, tell her that I waited for half an hour but I had to leave.


      Mary: Was there somebody waiting for somebody here?


      Bench: I'm sorry, were you talking to me?

      Mary: yes, was somebody waiting for me here?

      Bench: Well, somebody was here at about 8AM. About 10 there was a man who was here for five minutes. He left a message for somebody he was waiting for.

      Mary: What was the message?

      Bench: It might be personal; would you mind telling me your name, dearie?

      Mary: My name is "Mary Moe."

      Bench: Well, he said if Mary shows up, I should tell her he was waiting for her for half an hour.

      Mary: But you said he was only here for five minutes? Around 10 AM?

      Bench: Yes. He arrived here at 10 Am, four minutes and five seconds, and left at 10 AM, eight minutes and fifty three seconds.

      Mary: Oooh. How can he be such a jerk!

      Bench: I'm sorry dearie, I can't help you with that. You sound like you might be in trouble. If you need a real person to talk to, I can put you in touch with one. Are you in trouble?

      Mary: Uh, no thanks, I'm fine.

      Bench: Don't mention it.

      (Later on that day Mary calls Joe)

      Mary (on phone): Joe, you jerk! You stood me up!

      Joe: No I didn't! I waited for half an hour! I left a message with the bench, the one that sounds like somebody's grandmother!

      Mary: You idiot. The bench told me you were only there for only five minutes. And you were late. And you were supposed to meet me by the statue of Douglas Adams, not Lewis Carrol.

      Joe: Which statue of Adams?

      Mary: The Equestrian one you dope. The seats at the big monument are granite.

      Joe: Oh, no! I hate that bench. It's so crabby.

      Mary: Not as crabby as I am.

      Joe: OK, look, I'm sorry. I'll make it up to you I swear!

      Mary: Yeah right.

      Joe: No, really. Meet me this afternoon at the bench by the pond.

      Mary: Which bench?

      Joe: The one that sounds like Barry White.

      Mary: Oooh! I love that one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 11, 2005 @05:57AM (#12788072)
    ..someone 'borrows' one of the bins and hacks it so that it has Tourette syndrome []?

    It'd be hilarious to hear and see the bins going all over the place with random movements shouting out 'Fuck!', 'Shit!', 'Cunt!', 'Bitch!', 'Dickhead!', etc.

    Even if someone didn't take it to this extreme, I bet it won't be too long before someone does hack them to do something different from their original purpose.
    • Not funny. Way not funny. As somebody with Tourette's Syndrome, this is actually insulting. I do not curse randomly. I do have tics, which are uncontrollable signals sent by the brain to various parts of the body. Hacking them to do something different? Funny. Insulting people with Tourette's Syndrome? Not.

      I guess this explains why you're a fucking Anonymous Coward. Shove your head up your ass, you'll probably like it better in there.

  • Pretty soon all the chairs will get bored and then yelled at for not acting surprised when someone tries to sit on them.

    "Help, Help, I'm being repressed!"

    ...just because some stool that could sing handed you a sword doesn't make you king of the britons
  • This artsy project was financed by lottery money (I guess the state runs the lottery in the uk too). So these art failures can be a good example of why you should not waste your money on the lottery.
    • Indeed - you may as well just tip your cash straight into one of these 'things'.
    • Re:dissuade gambling (Score:3, Informative)

      by jimicus ( 737525 )
      I guess the state runs the lottery in the uk too

      Well, it's not quite as simple as that. Running the lottery is outsourced to a company called Camelot. The companies wanting to run it had to submit bids explaining what they'd do with the money.

      Camelot answered "Give some of it to arts projects, put some of it into the prize fund, use the rest to pay our directors absurd quantities of money", and they got the contract.
      • Oddly, when Virgin offered to do a fully non-profit lottery, they were turned down, and Camelot won the contract. In Ireland, it's a state thing (the Post Office runs it). Then again, we used to run a lottery to fund our HOSPITALS!)
  • by Toby The Economist ( 811138 ) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @06:10AM (#12788099)
    Junction is five minutes bicycle ride from here.

  • There's actually a guy here in Cambridge who sings and plays his guitar on the street. The thing is, he does it with the top part of a bin over his head. He's a real success with the tourists. I wonder if that's where these guys got the idea from.
  • RTFA Everyone! (Score:5, Informative)

    by bobbis.u ( 703273 ) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @07:12AM (#12788234)
    They are not being installed by the city council and they are not being widely deployed. It is an art display at The Junction, which is not really in the centre of the city anyway.

    Apparently, this is just what constitues "art" today. This article [] is straight from the horses mouth about it.

  • by drspliff ( 652992 )

    steal pointless crazy stuff like this, they have no re-sale value (I doubt the components are that expensive, most of the £110k was probably development time and research etc.). Then I saw this: dalek/ []

    Somebody stole a pointless crazy thing (e.g. a rare original dalek from the Dr.Who series) and their trying to ransom it back..

    Putting £110 worth of equipment anywhere in most places in the UK and not bolting it to the ground is always a bad

    • Thiefs wont want to.. steal pointless crazy stuff like this, they have no re-sale value

      Ummm ... have you noticed the propensity of high-school kids (and drunk people) to wander off with almost anything?

      Street signs. Planters. Traffic cones. Traffic lights. Stop signs. Anything really.

      I've never seen any evidence that these things have any resale value either, but the damnedest things do get stolen.
  • oh dear... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Cambridge is a student town you doesnt matter if its bolted down and given whirling blades of death...

  • I've also made several benches, cars, and blades of grass that sing when the sun comes out here.

    Which is to say never.

    Today, I put on my SKI JUMPER at 12 noon for a short trip outside because it's cold and cloudy. At least it's not raining. Yet. In theory, this is June. In practice, this might pass for february.

    In other Cambridge news, there was the recent environment-saving plan: just reduce trash collection frequency (with no corresponding decrease in council tax). This is why I throw my tras

  • by badfish99 ( 826052 ) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @07:42AM (#12788303)
    They aren't real bins (they're an art installation). You can't put rubbish in them. There are going to be signs saying "please don't feed the bins".
  • After all, the sun never sets on the british empire, right?

    The Japanese build robotic exoskeletons straight out of Mobile Suit Gundam.

    The Brits build robotic dustbins and benches.

  • And in other news,several of the town drunks have joined AA after the new benches were installed. George Albert, longtime resident of the community, had this to say. "I had been drinking pretty steady for about five years since I lost my job. I'd lost my family, my house and my self-respect, and thought nobody cared. Then one day I was down by the park, and fell asleep on this shiny new bench. The next morning I heard singing, but there was nobody there, just this voice singing the theme song from Anni
  • It's not the first time England has tried this sort of thing. It never leads to any good []...
  • when the bench keeps asking you if you'd like some toast.
  • by clambake ( 37702 )
    "Ok bench, I'm going to sit on you, and I don't want you to sigh in satisfation of a job well done and say it was your pleasure to be sat on."

    "mmm hmm"

    "And I don't want you to tell me how small my butt is today, or how wonderful a day it is, or mention how particularly stunning the trash bin is this morning."

    "mmm hmm"

    "Ok, here goes..." ...

    "whew, not a sound!"

  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Saturday June 11, 2005 @01:18PM (#12789499)
    Bender pumps the keg furiously, trying to get some beer, when he realizes....
    Bender: Oh, wait. You're a robot.
    Kegbot: Don't stop.
    Bender: Ewwww....

  • Wow. When I read this article, all I could think of was "Blebs! They're making effing blebs!"

    If you haven't read it already, And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon [] is a really great short read by up-and-coming sci-fi author Paul Di Filippo.

    Gads. Forget the diamond age. It appears that we're intering the age of blebs.

  • If it makes you think, it's art.

    Would the money have been better spent on a thousand hotel-room quality peices?

    (side note, what I like to do with a painting is envision the area outside the frame, from clues in the picture; like shadows, reflections, and structural hints, and other hard to quantify bits; like a painting showing 3 people, but there is a table set for four... is the forth person the painter?)
  • by JCY2K ( 852841 )
    Necessary cliche.

    ~Doors on the Heart of Gold
  • Eventually we may see electric motor equipped dumpsters that take themselves to the dump, with an empty coming in at the same time to replace it for the week. If not all the way to the dump, possibly to a nearby flatbed carrier that would take it down the highway and back from a designated meeting spot.

    Larger trash bins on city streets equipped with wireless net cams could double as police eyes on the street and clean-up crew, and rudimentary robotic arms could pick up and dispose of garbage.

    Your cat'
  • I can see it now. Every so often all the bins and benches will reorganise them selves into different patterns. In unison they will all say "WILL THE FUNG SHUI CLUB STOP REORGANIZING THE BINS AND BENCHES!!!", and over in one corner a bin is running around going "I CAN'T FIND MY CHI! I CAN'T FIND MY CHI! EEEEEE!!!"

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson