Research news

Photo: dr. Jože Guna

Publish Date: 01.12.2020

Category: Interdisciplinary research, Our contribution to sustainable development goals

Sustainable development goals: 11 Sustainable cities and communities (Indicators)

 The development of a waste container that is not only smart, but also shows emotions

award An applied and interdisciplinary research project of the Slovenian Research Agency: The Invisible Life of Waste Development of an Ethnographically Based Solution for Waste Management in Households

 “Show me your garbage, and I will tell you who you are. Show me how much waste you produce, and I will tell you what kind of society you live in,” explains Thomas Hylland Eriksen in one of his books. In this applied and interdisciplinary research project, we extend Eriksen’s idea by designing a study that will foreground the invisible life of waste as well as the people engaged in waste production and management – from consumers to sanitation workers. Partners from the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Electrical Engineering (Laboratory for Multimedia/Laboratory for Telecommunication) and CVS Mobile are involved in the project and share their experience.

An important objective of the project is to develop an innovative technological solution that will detect and visualise where and how waste is produced in households, as well as promote waste reduction. Its development is based on user- or human-centred design. With the support of the team under the guidance of Assist. Prof. Jože Guna in the Laboratory for Multimedia at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, we developed a prototype of a smart waste container with the option of personalised communication and interaction with people. The prototype is equipped with sensors for detecting proximity and identifying users, thus allowing the communication to be adapted to the person approaching the container via audio/visual channels. The container also has the ability to measure the volume and weight of waste, and display this information, thus helping to raise users’ awareness. The human factor and user experience are crucial in this respect, which is why we also explore the users’ attitudes towards technologies and consequently determine the optimal method of interaction and communication with them. Therefore, we intend to add “emotions” to the container in terms of personalisation and playful communication by using graphic elements. In this way, technology will serve as an important link in the communication between humans and appliances. Our aim is to make people aware that what they throw away does not actually disappear, but ends up on a huge pile. If people knew how much waste they produce, they would be shocked. On average, a European produces over 400 kilograms of waste per year.

In the context of the study, comparative research is conducted into the waste management practices in six cities: Ljubljana (Slovenia), Graz (Austria), Trieste (Italy), Zagreb (Croatia), Oslo (Norway), and Dubai (UAE). The study will provide us with insights into the lifestyles and work of “invisible” actors, such as sanitation workers, labourers at landfills, and people working in recycling facilities, while also describing local habits related to waste. In addition, the study will present waste as an important factor in the global network of production and consumption.

 Dr. Jože Guna is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, University of Ljubljana. His area of research focuses on Internet technologies, multimedia technologies, modalities and designing the user experience, VR/AR/MR technologies, including gamification and flow aspects. Currently he is involved in a number of projects focusing on user experience design and evaluation focused on interactive multimedia and VR/AR/MR applications. He is an expert in Internet, ICT and IPTV technologies and holds several industrial certificates from CISCO, Comptia and Apple, including trainer licenses from Cisco and Apple. He is a senior member of the IEEE organization and IEEE Slovenia Section Secretary General. He is a co-founder of the Slovenian XR hub and a technical lead of the first XR lab at Ljubljana Technology Park TPLJ.

 Dan Podjed, PhD, is an anthropologist dedicated to the development of humane and environmentally friendly services, products and solutions. He is a Research Fellow at the Research Centre of Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts and Associate Professor at the University of Ljubljana's Faculty of Arts. He has led several applied, interdisciplinary and industry-oriented projects, and participated in the development of various ethnographically based solutions in EU projects. Dan Podjed acted as the convenor of EASA Applied Anthropology Network from its inception in 2010 to 2018 and continues his commitment as one of the network's Executive Advisors. In 2013, he was the founder and from 2013 to 2018 organiser of the international symposium Why the World Needs Anthropologists. In 2019, he published the highly acclaimed book Seen, in which he explained why we are increasingly observed and exposed with the help of smartphones and other devices. In 2020, his book Indoor Anthropology was published. In the book he presented to the general public how he got to know society and himself during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Voted by the readers for the most interesting research news of 2020.

back to list