Monday, October 26, 2009

Robot overlords take over suburbia

The robots of Newton are here -- an army of green Waste Management trucks which pick up the blue trash barrels and green recycling barrels every Monday using a giant robotic arm (or mechanical arm?). They started in our neighborhood at the beginning of October. Here's what it looks like:

I showed this to a Japanese friend (a resident of the next town over, Waltham) who said, "this is in the United States?" Indeed it is! While in Japan robots are used for auto manufacturing and bizarre educational trials, here in Newton our robot overlords are starting with simple trash collection. The company that operates the service is Waste Management, which won the contract in our city based on a trial in one neighborhood and the claim that it will save lots of money, thanks to reduced manpower needs. Indeed, the collection is very quick, as you can see from the video.

However, what the city of Newton failed to take into account is the fact that the barrels are extremely heavy -- the barrels hold 64 gallons and are made of heavy-duty plastic, and must weigh upwards of 40 pounds with a typical load. Many local senior citizens are already complaining, and I can only imagine what it will be like when we have to wrangle these monsters down steps and over three-foot-high snowbanks in February.

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