The ZenRobotics Recycler (ZRR) may not be the sexiest bot we've ever posted about, but it's definitely making a difference. It sifts through piles of rubble from construction and demolition sites to find bits and pieces that can be recycled.
Something called "sensor fusion" helps the ZRR determine what can be saved from the landfill. This means that the ZRR relies on things like 3D laser scanners, metal scanners, and spectrometers to decide what's made of what. As ZenRobotics explains, "from all this sensory information, [the robot] can construct an understanding of what kinds of objects there are, made of which materials and also an understanding of how best to pick them up."
The robot, being a robot, can work twice as fast as a humans and doesn't have to stop for lunch (or sleep). The ZenRobotics engineers see the ZRR eventually working directly for companies that produce potentially recyclable waste: "think of a car factory process, there are thousands of robots. That’s the idea with automation, it’s not just going to be one single robot that does all the work, it is going to be a whole army of them." Five units have been shipped around Europe and more models are entering production this year.