This Microsoft-powered AI-enabled robot cleans up cigarette butts littered on the beach!

This robot may look like the Mars rover, but it’s a unique cigarette bud collecting bot designed to clean up the litter on beaches. Called the BeachBot (BB), this cute little four-wheeled machine was developed by Edwin Bos and Martijn Lukaart of TechTics. The duo got livid with the amount of trash (cigarette butts in particular) on the Scheveningen Beach in Holland and wanted to design a robot that could help clean up the mess. That’s how the 2.5-feet wide BeachBot came into existence, looking to navigate the beaches on its bloated wheels that don’t create any marks on the sand. The battery-powered bot has an AI brain that uses image-detection software to identify the butts and then pick them up with its gripper arms. The collected trash is then stored in the onboard compartment to dispose of later.

BB can distinguish the intended litter from things like towels, sandals, or other things beachgoers might have brought along with them. The BeachBot only picks up butts for now since it is programmed to do so in conjunction with the Microsoft Trove app. The app has a database of images submitted by responsible citizens worldwide of littered cigarette butts. This helps BB distinguish them from other things, and it keeps learning with each attempt at picking up the butt. According to Bos, “the most interesting part of our concept – we have a human-robot interaction where the public can help make the robots smarter.” He elaborated that they started with cigarette butts which are the world’s most littered item, and soon, they want such robots to “detect a range of other litter.”

“The filters of cigarettes are full of microplastics,” he adds. “It’s bad that these end up in nature.” How bad? When water touches discarded cigarette butts, the filters leach more than 30 chemicals that are “very toxic” to aquatic organisms and pose “a major … hazardous waste problem,” according to a February study by U.S. government scientists. Some of those chemicals also are linked to cancers, asthma, obesity, autism, and lower IQ in humans.

There are more than 4.5-trillion cigarette butts litter all over the face of planet earth, and this is a good starting point to clean up the mess we created. The cigarette butts make sense since the butts leave toxic chemicals when water touches them on the beaches. This is just the beginning of the herculean effort to clean up the beaches. Who knows, in the future, a swarm of such robots could clean our planet if we don’t wake up early enough. Bos truly put it ahead by saying that robotic solutions may not be the ultimate solution “for this problem because the bigger problem with littering is still human behavior.”

Designer: TechTics and Microsoft

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Skype coming to BlackBerry 10 devices

Skype coming to BlackBerry 10 devices

These days, an OS is only as good as its ecosystem, and it's one of the biggest question marks circling around the brand new BlackBerry 10. Without a solid selection of apps and entertainment options, RIM BlackBerry will have a difficult time persuading Android and iOS users to give the smartphone platform another chance. The company is currently in the middle of announcing a load of app and media partnerships for the nascent OS, and fortunately Skype is showing up on the grid of icons at the keynote.

Update: We just received official word from Skype. "We are excited about our plans to bring Skype to smartphones running the brand new BlackBerry 10 platform," said Bob Rosin, VP & GM of Business Development for Microsoft's Skype division. "We are working closely with BlackBerry to ensure Skype runs great on BlackBerry 10 devices. This will give BlackBerry 10 users a great Skype experience, including free voice and video calling, sending instant messages and text messages, sharing photos, videos and files, and calling to landlines and mobiles at Skype's low rates."

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Blackberry users suffer fresh server chills across UK, Europe, Africa (update: it’s a Vodafone problem)

Blackberry users get server chills in UK and Europe

It's 2013 and RIM's BlackBerry servers seem to be as grumpy as ever -- and totally oblivious to the need for happy headlines in the run up to January 30th. We're hearing from multiple readers that BB servers are down in the UK, while Vodafone has confirmed that its customers are having problems, with the biggest casualty being push email. Meanwhile, BlackBerry UK's Twitter feed says the outage is the result of "Vodafone service issues" and is affecting "some customers" across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. We'll update if we hear more.

Update: An early statement from Vodafone gave no hint that it was responsible for the outage, and merely said it was "working closely" with RIM to fix it. However, this does now look like a Vodafone problem. The company's African offshoot, Vodacom, has seen fit to apologize on Twitter and has said services in that continent are now being restored, though a backlog of data could cause delays.

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Source: Reuters, BlackBerry UK (Twitter), Vodacom (Twitter)

Porsche Design P’9981 BlackBerry gets cool matte black paint job, keeps crazy price

Porsche Design P'9981 BlackBerry gets matte black paint job, keeps old OS

Is it even possible to get more exclusive than RIM and Porsche Design's P'9981 Blackberry? We're not sure, but the phone's coming back (at least to Porsche Design's boutique stores) in a matte black finish. For high-flyers with low expectations, the device packs a QWERTY keyboard in the same exotic typeface, 2.8-inch 640 x 480 touchscreen and Porsche Design's UI, running on a 1.2GHz Qualcomm processor. but if you're willing to shell out around $2,350 for this particular phone, you probably don't care about any of that. The Vertu-baiting smartphone will appear in shops mid-January 2013 -- unfortunately right before RIM takes the wrappings of its new OS and new hardware.

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RIM taps 7Digital to power official BB10 music store

RIM taps 7Digital to power official BB10 music store

RIM is already well acquainted with 7Digital thanks to joint efforts on smartphones and tablets, and now its chosen the firm to power the official music store of BlackBerry 10. Not only does 7Digital bring its tech and catalog of downloads to the table, but the duo are promising to integrate the service with BB10 to provide features including recommendations and social integration. When RIM's fresh slate of devices launch next year, folks in the Americas, Australia, Europe, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa will be able to purchase tunes from the new storefront.

Continue reading RIM taps 7Digital to power official BB10 music store

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RIM taps 7Digital to power official BB10 music store originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 18 Oct 2012 18:50:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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BlackBerry rep shows off L-Series smartphone, forgets it’s meant to be a secret (video)

Mexican BlackBerry rep shows off Lseries BB10 smartphone, forgets it's meant to be a secret video

While the rest of us are chasing after dev phones and blurrycam shots, BlackBerry representatives in Mexico seem to be happy to wave honest-to-goodness L-Series handsets around on video. Website Hola Telcel filmed the sequence after the break, in which we're given a shaky tour of BB10 -- including the camera app's interesting "best shot" feature -- but with virtually no attention given to the hardware itself. Nevertheless, we can just about make out the previously-noted design, with the screen panel sandwiched between slightly rounded matte black plastic top and bottom parts, and a big silver BlackBerry logo emblazoned across the bottom. Also, unless we're reading way too much into it, the way people hold the device suggests it could be nice and thin.

Continue reading BlackBerry rep shows off L-Series smartphone, forgets it's meant to be a secret (video)

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BlackBerry rep shows off L-Series smartphone, forgets it's meant to be a secret (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 12 Oct 2012 07:58:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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BlackBerry 10 hands-on (video)

BlackBerry 10 handson video

Like any good show pony, BlackBerry 10's been trotting around the world, strutting the fairly limited elements of its known UI in an effort to court developers. The platform, without question the nail upon which RIM's fate and fortune hangs, had its big coming out party this past May at the company's showcase in Orlando, an event at which we also got to meet the Dev Alpha -- a glimpse into future hardware design -- and espy three main features of this new OS: camera, keyboard and app switching. What we didn't get, however, was any actual hands-on time with the software, leaving most members of the tech press to take Waterloo for its word.

Cut to the present and on this segment of RIM's dev-focused Jam tour, nearly two months later, we finally got a chance to cut through the smoke and mirrors of the company's polished powerpoint presentations to get some honest-to-goodness, up-close and personal time testing the software. So join us, won't you, after the break, where we'll delve into our first impressions of this Hail Mary in Motion.

Continue reading BlackBerry 10 hands-on (video)

BlackBerry 10 hands-on (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 19 Jun 2012 16:15:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Porsche Design P’9981 BlackBerry screeches into Canada

Porsche Design P'9981 BlackBerry screeches into Canada

Hear that, Toronto-based readers? That's the sound of Porsche Design's P'9981 BlackBerry doing donuts at a store near you (well, relatively speaking). Fresh from satisfying many a midlife crisis in London, the luxury phone is now available in Canada via the fancy Porsche Design boutique store in Toronto's Yorkville neighborhood, according to MobileSyrup. Folks willing to pay the pinky-raising premium price of $1,899 essentially get a BlackBerry 7 OS phone featuring upscale Porsche Design touches like a metal keyboard, stainless steel frame and leather-wrapped back cover. Still need to do some tire kicking? No worries -- you can take the phone out for a virtual test drive with our P'9981 review.

Porsche Design P'9981 BlackBerry screeches into Canada originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 15 Jun 2012 04:59:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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