BC company expands AI recycling kiosks that ‘gamify’ diversion

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using AI waste bin technology
The Oscar system’s creators, former SFU students Hassan Murad (left) and Vivek Vyas (right), suggest that “gamifying” recycling could potentially boost diversion rates. 2019 file photo from Simon Fraser University.

A British Columbia-based artificial intelligence (AI) company is piloting a new consumer waste sorting station that visually scans items and recommends the appropriate bin to help reduce guesswork. 

Developed by Intuitive AI, a beta version of the waste station dubbed “Oscar”, is up and running at several federal government offices in the Ottawa area, says the company, which estimates that less than 30% of people actually sort waste correctly. 

The name doesn’t refer to the classic trash can character Oscar the Grouch, but is actually a shortening of “object scanner and recognition tool”.

“Everyone understands how important it is to manage our waste properly, but it’s shocking to see the lack of tools or sensors in the industry to help with this,” says Intuitive AI Co-Founder and CEO, Hassan Murad, in a statement.

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The system’s creators also suggest that “gamifying” recycling could potentially boost diversion rates. “Oscar Sort” uses a display screen and an AI-powered camera with product image recognition technology to identify packaging items that users scan. The screen provides guidance to guests on whether the items they scanned can be recycled or go into the compost bin or waste bin.

“Wish-cycling is when people just chuck it in any of the bins, assuming someone else will eventually sort it to its proper place,” Intuitive AI says in its promotional materials. “However, this rarely happens, and it only makes waste management more difficult for the business.”

Murad developed the waste sorting and identification system with Simon Fraser University’s School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering student Vivek Vyas. Murad graduated from the school in 2016. 

In addition to the new Ottawa pilot, the company has already done testing at 12 Tim Hortons locations across Canada. Prior to the installations, the company performed a test period for an analysis of how guests were already using the waste, recycling and compost bins in the select restaurants before the on-screen guidance was turned on.

Watch: AI-assisted recycling at a Tim Hortons restaurant

Oscar Sort has also been installed at Western New England University.

Intuitive AI offers several waste diversion AI products, including Oscar Pocket and Oscar Pixel. Oscar Pocket is what the company calls “ChatGPT for waste”, essentially allowing users to input text prompts for products into an app that gives recycling recommendations. Oscar Pixel allows companies to utilize cameras that monitor and alert for issues such as dumpster fullness or contamination.

Intuitive AI was the winner of the 2017 Top Venture award by NextAI.

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