Clearbot ups its marine-trash-removal game with help from Razer
Back in January, we covered an autonomous plastic trash collector called Clearbot that was designed to remove waste from areas such as harbors, lakes and canals. Now the startup behind the project has partnered with gaming titan Razer for an updated design.
It is estimated that around 11 million tons of plastic waste enters the ocean each year, and we've been following cleanup efforts by the likes of The Ocean Cleanup, the Ocean Conservancy, and others for some time. But it's a mammoth task that will require all hands on deck to make any headway.
The Clearbot autonomous robot uses AI vision technology to identify and retrieve different types of plastic waste from marine environments, which is then disposed of responsibly. It's also tasked with gathering data on the kinds of plastic it encounters during operation to feed its database.
As part of its 10-year sustainability roadmap, and the first of many partnerships with sustainability startups, Razer's team of engineers and designers have donated their time and expertise to help transform the Clearbot prototype into a slick new trash collector that can be scaled up and mass marketed.
The craft seems to follow similar lines to the earlier prototype, where the vessel patrols a preset geofenced area searching for marine trash, which it funnels into its open bow and removes from the water for proper disposal elsewhere. The Clearbot is powered by a solar array, and uses its improved AI smarts to seek out marine plastic waste within two meters of the vessel, even in rough waters, and is able to gather up to 250 kg (550 lb) of the stuff per cycle. But the idea is to deploy swarms of Clearbots to clean up large areas.
"We are extremely happy to have the opportunity to work with a startup focused on saving the environment," said Razer's Patricia Liu. "Clearbot's unique AI and advanced machine learning technology will enable and empower governments and organizations around the world to broaden their sustainability efforts. We urge other innovative startups to reach out to Razer for collaboration opportunities as we strive to make the world a safer place for future generations."
Beyond the cool render image and high-level overview, no information on the new Clearbot vessel is available at this time, but the startup has put a call out to its supporters to help it gather more data on the plastic problem by uploading photos of waste spotted in open waters to its website, which will be used to help improve the robot's detection algorithm.
It also hopes to get fleets of autonomous trash collectors in operation around the globe, and reports that marine harbor operations in Asia and NGOs have already shown interest in the technology. You can learn more about the collaboration in the video below.
Update June 10, 2021: Razer has now provided a bit more information on the new Clearbot Version 2 design. The camera above the trash entry point to the front is a Razer Kiyo Pro webcam that's able to help the AI brain identify marine plastic waste even in low lighting conditions. Where the Wavestar from our earlier coverage gathered waste into a collecting bin towed out back, the pontoons on the new design have been extended back so that the trash collection area is now part of the vessel. And though not shown on the render image, hooks will be included on the upper body to make it easier to haul the Clearbot around between missions.