Robert Downey Jr. Announces Project To Clean Up The Environment Using Robotics At Amazon’s AI Conference
Actor Robert Downey Jr. announced a new project called The Footprint Coalition to clean up the planet using advanced technologies at Amazon’s re:MARS conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday evening.
“Between robotics and nanotechnology we could probably clean up the planet significantly, if not entirely, within a decade,” he said.
Downey, who Forbes estimates to have a net worth of $81 million, said that he got the idea after having a dinner conversation with a group of experts.
At this point, the effort is severely light on details ,with only a bare-bones website to accompany Downey’s public statement, but the actor said he plans to officially launch the project by April 2020.
“I’m going to spend the next months putting this together correctly and getting actual smart people around me,” he said. A recent United Nations report found that humans are having an unprecedented and devastating effect on global biodiversity, and researchers have found microplastics polluting the air, ocean, and soil.
“In 11 years, when I’m 65, if we’ve made even a little dent in what I think is a massive threat to our future and the mess we leave behind, I’m going to come back and throw the nuttiest retirement party you’ve ever seen,” Downey added.
The announcement at Amazon’s first artificial intelligence, robotics, and space conference that it has opened to the public comes as the company itself is under fire for its policies around the environment and climate change.
Nearly 8,000 employees signed an open letter supporting a proposalpresented at its recent shareholders meeting that would have required the board of directors to prepare a public plan for “disruptions posed by climate change” and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Amazon does environmental commitments—like its goal to have net zero carbon for 50% of all shipments by 2030—employees said those efforts weren’t enough, though the proposal was ultimately voted down.
Amazon did not immediately respond to questions about whether it was investing financially or technologically in Downey Jr.’s project.
Beyond his announcement of the Footprint Coalition, Downey Jr.’s joke-laden talk touched on the importance of diversity in Hollywood and the tech industry, as well as the rapid developments in artificial intelligence. Although he didn’t provide any details on achieving Footprint Coalition’s goals, researchers and entrepreneurs have long studied how to use AI to mitigate a number of environmental issues.
The demo room of the conference, which runs until Friday, included several instances of robotics and artificial intelligence projects applied for the good of the environment. For example, RSE, a nonprofit arm of the company iRobot, has created an undersea robot to catch invasive species and is working on a solution for removing plastics from the ocean.
The conference’s first keynote also included Amazon’s senior vice president of devices and services, Dave Limp, who talked about how the company integrates AI across all its products, the CEO of Boston Dynamics, Marc Raibert, who demoed the company’s dog-like Spot robots, and Morgan Pope and Tony Dohi of Walt Disney Imagineering, who talked about their work to create autonomous acrobats.
By Jillian D’Onfro (Forbes)