Usually when garbage in Italy makes the news, it’s because it’s piling up in the streets. But now Italians can be proud, as researchers working in the Tuscan town of Peccioli have developed a cutting-edge (and adorable) robot named DustCart that has the potential to replace truck-based garbage collection in the tiny, truck-unfriendly avenues that crisscross most small European towns.
In tests, residents summon DustCart simply by calling to it. It quickly rolls over and asks for a customer ID number and details on the type of trash being disposed (organic, recyclable or waste) before opening a compartment in its belly to accept it. From there it would likely take the waste to a centralized collection point.
According to the GlobalPost (click through for a great set of photos of the robot in action), DustCart is part of a $3.9 million research program called DustBot, launched in 2006 to “implement robotics in society in useful ways.” In addition to collecting garbage, DustCart is equipped with special sensors that monitor air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, ozone, benzene, CO, CO2 and air temperature, making it a rolling air-quality barometer.