People suck, so a robot with Microsoft AI has to pick up cigarette butts

Cigarette Robot Project Bb 4
Cigarette Robot Project Bb 4 (Image credit: TechTics)

What you need to know

  • Engineers built a robot designed to pick up cigarette butts from the beach.
  • The robot uses Microsoft's Trove AI system to identify cigarette butts in the sand.
  • The company behind the robot is working on companion devices to look out for cigarette butts.

Litter is a global problem, and each year over 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are improperly disposed. Many of those butts end up in the sands of beaches. A pair of Dutch engineers, Martijn Lukaart and Edwin Bos, designed a robot to pick up cigarette butts to clean up beaches. It's called BeachBot, or BB, and it uses artificial intelligence tech from Microsoft (via CNET).

BB gets better at identifying the waste it can pick up as it receives more images of cigarette butts. TechTics, the company behind BB, asked people to send in photos to help teach the robot. Right now, it's received 200 images that it can use to learn, but it needs about 2,000 in total.

These images are processed with Microsoft's Trove AI system for machine learning.

The robot can then identify cigarette butts in the wild and place them into a bin that it carries. After it's done cleaning, people dispose of the waste properly.

To help BB out, TechTics is working on a pair of smaller robots that can look for cigarette butts. They'll then tell BB where the butts are so it can pick them up.

While the tech is impressive, TechTics wants to get people to litter less. If people stop throwing their cigarette butts onto the beach, robots like Project.BB wouldn't be necessary.

This isn't the first time that we've seen AI and robots used to clean up waste. Razer and Clearbot created an AI drone that removes waste from water to help clean up the world's oceans.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at