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Nov 3 2007   2:46PM GMT

Overheard: Robot goats will save the planet

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

big_belly.jpg robotgoat.gif

Forget about how old you are. Which one would you rather throw your trash into? The Big Belly municipal trash compacter that looks like a FedEx box, or the robot goat?

I’d rather feed the goat. So would the folks in Spokan, Washington. So would the people in Tokyo.

Spokane’s Riverfront Park garbage Goat was created by artist Paula Turnbull. You put litter in front of the goat’s mouth, and a vacuum sucks the trash in and compacts it. The metal goat appears to eat the litter, making grumbling noises and providing entertainment while you keep the environment green. Spokane’s had their goat since 1974.

Edogawa Kyotei took the idea one step further. Get it? FUR-ther.

Ok, I apologize. I will grow up. Right now.

Here’s the story: Edogawa Kyotei is a race course for hydroplane speedboats. It’s a popular tourist attraction in Tokyo. The drivers are professional and the crowd bets on the winners. It’s similar to horse racing in the United States.

If you’ve ever been to Saratoga for the races in August, you know that the grandstands and grounds are covered with losing tickets. People watch the race, check their ticket when its over, jump up and down if they win, or throw their ticket on the ground if they lose. It’s the same at Edogawa Kyotei.

So the managers at Edogawa Kyotei brought in a robot goat to encourage the crowd to keep the park clean.

The genius part is not that they added fur to their robot.

The genius part is that they started a viral marketing campaign to spread the message that feeding the goat a losing ticket — any losing ticket — would improve the person’s luck on future bets. They added more fun to the fun and got a cleaner park.

Sure beats the threat of a $100 littering fine.

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