Weirdest start-ups: CROWded Cities

Whoever told you animals are not intelligent enough to help out humans will have to eat crow now, as one Dutch start-up has promised to clean up cities in a rather innovative way…

Two industrial designers hailing from Amsterdam, Ruben van der Vleuten and Bob Spikman, decided to tidy up their beautiful city of Amsterdam with the aid of crows. Yes, the birds!

They (start-up creators, not black-feathered fliers) have noticed cigarette butts lying around and thought it would be neat…-er, if said rubbish didn’t litter the streets. What to do, what to do? Another eco-initiative in a city already quite eager to be ecologic and trendy? Nope. Robots, maybe? These look scary, and not very practical, what with all the hectic bike traffic. A clean-up crew, perhaps? Nah, who’d work for such peanuts! Wait a moment! Peanuts? Here’s an idea that may not be as nutty as it seems: let’s use birds!

„First we thought of pigeons which would have been great because there are so many of them in cities,” says Ruben. Alas, the Dutch design duo were disappointed to learn that pigeons are notoriously difficult to train. The use of homing pigeons to carry messages and mail, for instance, is simply exploiting their  instincts, not actually training them.

Crows then? Yep, they’re the real brainboxes among birds. They can use basic tools, and even their beak and claws in lieu of fingers and hands. Some are taking advantage of busy traffic to employ driving cars, as the (quite expensive, but effective) nut-crackers. In a nutshell, they’ll do quite a lot to get to the nuts and bolts of any problem!

But the idea to put these avian brainiacs to work is far from a recent flight of fancy. From TED talks to various tech start-ups, many toyed with the idea in the past. One entrepreneur envisaged vending machines that would dispense peanuts or other treats to the sage birds for collecting coins. That machine was the actual inspiration for „Crowded cities”, as according to Ruben, “[they] bumped into this project by a guy named Joshua Klein, and everything clicked”. Will some feathers be ruffled, or will the idea actually fly? Quoth the raven… Possibly.

So next time you ask, „who’d work for peanuts”? Well, for literal peanuts, birds would actually fly an extra mile. If only there were simple incentives like that for people…


to help sb out – pomóc komuś
human – człowiek
to eat crow – odszczekać, cofnąć, co się powiedziało i przeprosić (pot., US)
to clean sth up – oczyścić coś
to hail from X – pochodzić z X
to tidy sth up – oczyścić coś
with the aid of X – z pomocą X
flier – latacz, tu: ptak
cigarette butt – niedopałek papierosa (pot.)
said X – wspomniany X
rubbish – śmieci
to litter sth – zaśmiecać coś
what with X – zważywszy na X (pot.)
hectic – gorączkowy, pośpieszny
traffic – ruch uliczny
clean-up crew – grupa sprzątająca
nah – nie (pot.)
to work for peanuts – pracować za grosze
nutty – szalony, zwariowany
alas – niestety (arch.)
duo – duet, dwójka
notoriously – notorycznie
homing pigeon – gołąb pocztowy
to exploit sth – wykorzystywać coś
brainbox – geniusz, spryciarz (pot., UK)
beak – dziób (ptasi)
in lieu of sth – zamiast czegoś, wobec braku czegoś
to take advantage of sth – skorzystać na czymś/z czegoś
nut-cracker – dziadek do orzechów
in a nutshell – z grubsza, w skrócie (pot.)
the nuts and bolts of sth – detale, szczegóły czegoś (o mechanizmie, o czymś skomplikowanym)
avian – ptasi
brainiac – geniusz, mądrala
flight of fancy – mrzonka, gra fantazji
to toy with sth – bawić się czymś, rozważać coś (niezbyt poważnie)
entrepreneur – przedsiębiorca
to envisage sth – wyobrazić (sobie) coś
vending machine – automat (do sprzedaży czegoś)
to dispense sth – wydawać coś
treat – smakołyk
sage – mądry
according to – według, zgodnie z
to bump into sth – wpaść na coś (przypadkiem), natrafić
everything clicked – wszystko nagle zaczęło mieć sens, doznałem/am olśnienia
to ruffle feathers – wzbudzić czyjś gniew/złość, narazić się (komuś)
to fly – powieść się, sprawdzić (o pomyśle, idei)
Quoth the Raven… – kruk zakrakał… (z wiersza E.A. Poe)
literal – dosłowny
to go an extra mile – dołożyć wszelkich starań, wysilić się (pot.)
incentive – zachęta, motywacja

by Prochor Aniszczuk

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