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Researchers released robot trash cans in NYC to see how people would react

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

We've all been there - walking around outside, needing to throw something away, but you can't find a trash can. Well, in New York recently, the trash cans could find you. They could even roll towards you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBOTIC BEEPING)

RASCOE: Kind of like a certain droid from a galaxy far, far away.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBOTIC BEEPING)

RASCOE: It was a project of researchers from Cornell University. They powered two plastic trash cans using recycled hoverboards and attached 360 cameras on them. Then they released them in Astor Place in Manhattan. It was a Wizard of Oz deployment method, which lets people interact with something thinking it's a computer, but it's actually controlled by an unseen human. The researchers' videos show the bins darting around between people sitting at tables or just walking by. People coaxed the bins toward them to throw their trash away, others helped them when the bins got stuck. And some kicked the bins away - it was just too creepy for them. Still, some thought those robotic trash cans were a kind of cute way to keep at least one part of New York City squeaky clean.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBOTIC BEEPING) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Hadeel al-Shalchi is an editor with Weekend Edition. Prior to joining NPR, Al-Shalchi was a Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press and covered the Arab Spring from Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt, and Libya. In 2012, she joined Reuters as the Libya correspondent where she covered the country post-war and investigated the death of Ambassador Chris Stephens. Al-Shalchi also covered the front lines of Aleppo in 2012. She is fluent in Arabic.