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Idea vs. Ego
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This idea cunningly uses the ubiquity and pseudo-
distribution of street litter to make deductions about
sources of that litter and maybe find the very fast food
restaurant whose rubbish you've been analysing.
You would need a video camera, a computer system and
to use it you would point the camera at the
pavement as you walk around an urban area. You would
looking ahead, holding the display in your field of vision.
The output of the camera would processed in real time
order to identify the type and brands of street litter,
recording their positions and noting additional
like clustering. There would also be a data storage,
box feature for longer-term off-line analysis.
For this real-time feed the display would be used to
recommend a pedestrian search strategy to find the
that a branded bit of litter comes from. As you wander,
using the display's advice (but watching out for traffic,
little old ladies and the like at the same time) your video
input is constantly collecting more information to refine
it's search pattern, trying to detect if you are getting
closer or further away.
Initially it would be a way to test whether an algorithm
this is possible but in the end it could be used as an
tracking device to find business or people who are prone
to litter or encourage littering through excessive
I feel it in my bones (and my properly disposed of burger
wrapper) that this is possible. Of course clean streets,
a complete lack of pedestrians, would render this device
The Garbage Project
"The largest category occupying landfill space was paper." [normzone, May 04 2009]
||I agree with both clauses of your last paragraph; I think this is possible, but it needs a great deal more littering to be effective. Admittedly I do not exhaustively look at and classify litter, but I don't see a lot of it generally, and what there is mostly seems to lack strong connection to nearby businesses .... of course, your mileage may vary.
||(misplaced apostrophe in the subtitle)
If this were widely used might it not encourage fast-food outlets to generate more litter as a means of attracting customers? - hang on, they probably do that anyway... [+]
||I'll wager somewhere there's a student who has done an analysis of all the trash picked up in a given zone - I wonder if there are any documented findings.
||So this could be a debris-based mixture of Google Earth and Mapquest.
||Both wind and human traffic patterns would bias the data, but I can just imagine:
||"Click here to plan your trip to include an In-And-Out-Burger place probably right about here".
||In Samuel R. Delany's "Stars in My Pockets Like Grains of Sand" the professionals that swept the streets, hauled the garbage and studied their collections for patterns were called "tracers" and the position was held in some esteem.
||Analysis of rubbish is always good in my books. An idea too minor for the Halfbakery is my petty idea to tax companies by the weight of their branded rubbish that their customers discard onto the streets.
||So this is more of an social, environmental and computational algorithm that we can use in what seems to be (for me at least, perhaps I'm just too grumpy) an age of rubbish. Understand the object rich environment now, track down the chain smoking murder suspect later ...
||The gain might be a better understanding of rubbish and another gain for object recognition systems. Some of those packaging items seems to be well documented due to the various trademarks and copyrights that they declare in between the patterns.
||Most archaelogy is based on the analysis of trash.