AI to serve the city: a garbage sorting robot is being tested in Moscow

April 27

A robotic complex for garbage sorting is operating in a pilot mode in Moscow. The computer vision technology provides its operation. Due to this, the robot distinguishes between types of waste by appearance. The smart machine makes human labor easier and increases the amount of sorted waste by 15 percent. Testing of the machine is being carried out at one of the waste processing complexes of Moscow.

“Manual sorting of waste is a tiring work. Its robotization will improve the performance of sorting lines. Moreover AI technologies may enable for increase in the recycling. Pilot run of the complex has shown that the robot significantly simplifies the work and helps the sorters. Thus, a worker piles up 17 to 22 plastic containers of sorted wastes a minute, while the complex within the same time - at least 25 more”, said Dmitry Derelyak, Deputy Head of the Moscow Department of Information Technologies.

The robot sorts out waste by types or fractions. The video camera of the smart machine distinguishes objects on the conveyor belt by color and shape. After an object was caught by the lens, a neural net based on the computer vision technology compares it with the images stored in memory. Then it determines a type of waste and sends the command to the robot to grab the item after which it is sent to an appropriate container.

In order for the robot to precisely select between the types of garbage on the sorting belt, the neural net is constantly trained. Different items are photographed and added to the database of the sorting complex. In November 2020, when the robot was launched in a pilot mode, it could pick out only two fractions of garbage - bottles made of transparent and translucent plastic and plastic containers for household detergents.

Later in the course of testing, the database of the smart machine has been replenished. and now it distinguishes 42 fractions. For example, by color (blue, white, brown or colorless transparent), by shape and also by material (aluminum, plastic, cardboard). The machine also knows glass and paper from other types of waste.

“Modern life is inseparable from new technologies. Automatic waste sorting is a great example of how innovation is fitting into the housing and utilities industry. It enables for a more thorough and efficient picking out of waste which is suitable for recycling. Thus in 2020 more than 855 thousand tons of recyclable materials were processed, which is 51 percent more than a year before. In the future, automatized waste sorting will help to select even more useful fractions, i. e. those suitable for recycling, and the process itself will become faster”, as commented in the Department of Housing and Communal Services of Moscow.

A smart machine is constantly improving its skills by facilitating human labor. So, in the first days of testing, the robot sorted out 160 objects in almost an hour, and now, within the same time, it collects over 1100 objects.

The robotic complex with computer vision technology is being tested by the innovation laboratory of the Moscow Department of Information Technology. It was established in 2016 for coordination of smart city projects. During its work, the innovation laboratory has tested more than 30 projects, some of them are already being implemented on an ongoing basis.


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