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The Heap

A Real-World WALL-E?

Most materials recovery facilities (MRF) are comprised of a mixture of advanced sorting technologies supplemented by human hand sorting. And the processes involved are housed in a building to which the recyclables must be transported. But what if you could deploy a free-roaming robot in a variety of environments (such as a commercial manufacturing facility, a construction site or even a landfill) and have it identify and sort all manner of recyclables using sensors akin to those at work on an advanced MRF line?

Finnish engineering firm Zen Robotics claims it has created just such a technology. The key, as Jaako Sarela details on the BBC radio program Click, is a unique operating system that helps the robot make use of various sensors in the field and apply logic to know how best to handle the materials it comes across. They have installed this technology in a standard industrial robot armature, but it's not a huge leap to imagine this technology at work out in the field.

Think of it as the world's smartest Roomba.

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