It's just another summer day in busy Albee Square in Downtown Brooklyn.
Or maybe not. There are two robot trash cans rolling through the area — not something you see every day, right?
"The first time one rolled up to me, I was on my phone playing a game when I kind of just turned, and where did this come from, and why is there a camera on it?" said Kathy Disalvatore, who was taking a break in the square from her job at Trader Joe's.
They’re called trashbots.
The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Cornell Tech have deployed the two remote operator-controlled trash cans in Albee Square. It's part of a study to understand the different ways in which people respond to service robots operating in public spaces.
"We don't really come in with any assumptions. We are more interested in, if we envision a future where every object people interact with on a daily basis can be automated, how would people accept and adapt to such a future?" said Frank Bu, a doctoral student at Cornell Tech, which is located on Roosevelt Island.
The trashbots are garbage and recycling pails on top of repurposed hoverboards with 360-degree cameras attached. It's about studying reactions and how communities can use technology to manage waste better.
"We are thinking about how tech can work with humans, and you heard, of course, how interesting that is, but we are also concerned about cleaning up our public spaces and the idea of getting people animated about using our trashbins is pretty exciting as well," said Regina Myer, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.
The trashbots can run for three to four hours without charging and have a range of a about a half a block. They have been here for two weeks, usually for two hours a day after the lunch rush.
So what do people think? Travis Hall was having a snack in the square and seemed intrigued.
"They kind of creep me out, but I do like the robot trash cans, I do like them," Hall said. Wendy Campbell was appreciative of the trashbots' work to keep the area clean.
"They will come to you and just dump in your garbage, they come right to you," Campbell said.
Of course, while the trashbots do attract a lot of attention, some just chalk it up to another day in New York City.
"Nothing surprises me today, nothing," Charles Willis said.
Researchers hope to bring the trashbots to all five boroughs, so prepare to possibly have them in your neighborhood soon.