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Let's Play a Game (and Clean up Waterways)

Who says playing games isn't useful? It can improve attention, memory as well as neuroplasticity: the ability of the brain to reorder itself. Well now, thanks to a pilot project by Urban Rivers in Chicago IL., it can be productive as well - by "gamifying" a task we all value: Cleaning Up.

The project aims to take advantage of two technological trends in order to help tackle pollution. These are Gamification and IOT (Internet of Things). The former is just as it sounds - applying in-game mechanics to real-world scenarios. One example is accumulating some kind of credit or points for exercising from your health insurance company. IOT refers to the inter-connectivity, communication and coordination of everyday devices for our benefit; a fridge may monitor its contents and automatically order replenishment as needed.

In the case of our example, the clever idea is to allow Internet-connected players to control a river-dwelling robot in order to capture and clean up floating garbage, collecting points while doing so. They system employs a webcam, Wifi and GPS tracking. A leaderboard is maintained with the top performers achieving a place of honor.

Figure 1: "Trash Robot" in Action. (New Atlas, 2018)

It's early days; the initiative is only in the Kickstarter (pilot) phase. Financial support raised online will be used for further development and prototyping. Hopefully, this ingenious concept succeeds and is just a taste of things to come.


New Atlas, 2018 (Holloway, J.). "Trash-collecting river robot can be controlled by anyone via the web". Accessed: 11.04.18

ZDNet, 2018 (Nichols, G.). "Can this ingenious trash collecting robot gamify litter removal?". Accessed: 11.04.18


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