Robert Downey Jr. wants to help save the real world. On Tuesday, as a speaker for Amazon's re:MARS conference, the 'Iron Man' actor announced his plans to start a coalition that will clean up the Earth using robotics, artificial intelligence, and technology. Downey Jr.'s organization, called the 'Footprint Coalition,' is still but a name and an idea at this point, but Downey Jr. expressed his determination to see it through to the supportive audience.
"I know it's a 'kumbaya' type dream," Business Insider quoted the actor saying on-stage. "I'm down with dedicating myself to maybe one small part of making good on that statement, even in abject failure, it's still the best idea I've ever had."
There are still a lot of details to iron out in his plans. According to Downey Jr., this idea has only been in the works six months, and it was all inspired by a statement he heard by an expert he shared a table with.
"I was at a table with super smart, impressive, expert folks about six months ago," he explained to the crowd, "and the following statement was made: 'between robotics and technology, we could probably clean up the planet significantly, if not entirely within a decade.'"
Downey Jr. isn't entirely wrong. In fact, there are already multiple climate change start-ups that plan to develop or use robots that can accomplish more than what humans can handle. One such group is Urban Rivers in Chicago — a group dedicated to cleaning and beautifying the Chicago River for everyone to enjoy. To clean up the trash from the river, they designed a unique robot to gather and push the debris to locations where it can be picked up. Dubbed the 'Trashbot,' Urban Rivers hopes to turn the robot into a fun game of trash-collecting for others to control and play online.
Another company, AMP Robotics, combines both robotic arms and an A.I. 'brain' that quickly recognizes recyclables and sorts them out at an extremely fast rate. The A.I. continues to learn as it works, gathering information and learning patterns in material shapes and sizes. The technology has already been integrated in electronic recycling plants and construction demolition material recovery machines.
Those are just a couple examples of how technology can help humans clean the Earth. Downey Jr. appeared to be very aware of the potential of this technology, as Variety noted the actor "painted A.I. as a significant technological advancement that gave him hope." He also assured the audience he understood there were a lot of harrowing logistics, legalities, and politics to overcome if he wanted to make this work. Still, he's intent on seeing his project through.
“In 11 years, when I’m 65," quoted Forbes, "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 Jr. plans to launch the Footprint Coalition in April 2020. If you're interested in staying up to date on his progress, you can sign up for the Footprint Coalition's newsletter.