You can control this robot as it trawls the Chicago River picking up trash

A lot of folks have Roomba vacuum cleaners in their homes. Heck, some of us have gone even further and incorporated similar robots into our yards for tasks like pulling weeds in the garden or cleaning our gutters. There aren’t too many such robots outside of individual homes, though. A new Kickstarter project aims to change that, with one specific cleanup mission in mind: removing the trash from the Chicago River.

The project is the work of Urban Rivers, a team that previously created a successful crowdfunding campaign to develop “floating gardens” to restore natural wildlife habitats in the Chicago River. Having completed that goal, they now want to further improve the waterway by building a trash robot that can “drive” around the river and collect trash before it is removed by a human volunteer.

“When we installed our floating garden last year, we had a problem with trash accumulation,” Nick Wesley, one of the brains behind the project, told Digital Trends. “Initially we just threw manpower at the issue, but the comings and goings of the torrent of garbage was unpredictable. People would get suited up to clean the trash, and by the time they arrived it would have moved to a different part of the river. We realized the best solution would be to have something there 24/7.”

robot chicago river picks up trash screenshot from gp010162

Other than its watery setting, there’s one crucial difference between the 24/7 robot the team has built and the familiar Roomba vacuum cleaner: rather than being autonomous like the Roomba, this water-based trash-cleaning robot is controlled by people. More specifically, it’s controlled by people like you, since the idea is that users will be able to log in via a mobile app and drive the robot around, seeking out trash to herd.

You don’t have to be in the area, either. Thanks to an in-built camera and web controls, you should be able to control the robot from wherever you happen to be. To make this extra fun, the team plans to gamify the experience so that you’ll be able to rack up high scores by doing this.

Unlike your average Kickstarter campaign, with this project you’re not actually pledging money to place a pre-order for a product (although we guess the same rules about the risks of crowdfunding campaigns still apply). Instead, the team is offering various rewards — ranging from beta and alpha access to the platform, all the way through to a $1,000 reward to actually name the finished robot. Trashy McTrashface, anyone?

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Digital Trends Live

Indiegogo’s CEO on how crowdfunding is going beyond fundraising

David Mandelbrot, CEO of Indiegogo, joins us on DT Daily to talk about how Indiegogo is changing its crowdfunding business to offer support and resources, which in turn would lead to more successful campaigns.
Emerging Tech

This fully autonomous $400 drone folds like a book, follows you like a paparrazzo

Having a drone that could follow you everywhere while taking high-quality images without crashing has been a flight of fantasy. With ZeroZero's Hover 2, not only can you have a fully autonomous 4K selfie drone, you can have it for $400.

The best iRobot Roomba deals to make cleaning your home a breeze

Keep your home clean without lifting a finger using a robot vacuum cleaner. These nine iRobot Roomba deals not only help you keep your home tidy, but many also come with advanced features such as automatic scheduling and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Emerging Tech

China says it has developed a quantum radar that can see stealth aircraft

Chinese defense giant China Electronics Technology Group Corporation claims that it has developed a quantum radar that's able to detect even the stealthiest of stealth aircraft. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Glass orb packs all the constellations in the night sky into fancy desk ornament

Ever wanted to know more about the star constellations? A stunning new Kickstarter campaign, taking the form of a fancy desk ornament that re-creates the night sky in a glass orb, aims to help.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX makes rocketry look easy, sticks yet another Falcon 9 landing

SpaceX is due to perform its latest Falcon 9 rocket launch and landing on November 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Here's how you can watch the proceedings live.
Emerging Tech

Stronger than steel, thinner than paper, graphene could be the future of tech

Since its discovery, graphene has set the research world on fire. What exactly is it, though, and what could it mean for the future of tech? Here's everything you need to know about what could be the next supermaterial to take center stage.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

In a weighty decision, scientists prepare to redefine the kilogram

Metrologists are meeting at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles to vote on whether to redefine the kilogram as a constant that can be observed in the natural world.

See the National Forests like never before in these awe-inspiring drone videos

What's the difference between a National Park and a National Forest? Drones. With no ban on drones in National Forests -- at least, not yet -- filmmakers have a way to capture the immensity of these locations with stunning results.
Emerging Tech

Google’s balloon internet is coming to Kenya in 2019

In order to bring the internet to those who lack it, a company called Loon is launching balloons into the stratosphere. From more than 12 miles up, these balloons beam connectivity over a large area on the ground.
Emerging Tech

Hikers missing on Mount Fuji could soon find a drone buzzing above their heads

Hikers who go missing while climbing Japan's highest mountain could soon find a drone buzzing above their head. A new system using the flying machines has been set up on Mount Fuji for future search-and-rescue missions.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk receives FCC approval to launch over 7,500 satellites into space

Not surprisingly, SpaceX is thinking big with Starlink, its space-based global broadband network. This week, the company received FCC approval to launch 7,518 satellites into a low-Earth orbit for its satellite internet service.