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Japanese Robot Picks Only the Ripest Strawberries

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the worry-when-it-starts-tasting-them dept.

Robotics 202

kkleiner writes "The Institute of Agricultural Machinery at Japan's National Agriculture and Food Research Organization, along with SI Seiko, has developed a robot that can select and harvest strawberries based on their color. Ripened berries are detected using the robot's stereoscopic cameras, and analyzed to measure how red they appear. When the fruit is ready to come off the vine, the robot quickly locates it in 3D space and cuts it free. From observation to collection, the harvesting process takes about 9 seconds per berry. Creators estimate that it will be able to cut down harvesting time by 40%."

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202 comments

One step... (3, Funny)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452500)

One step away from harvesting humans!

These robots are the real zombies, they need brains to power their neural net.

can strawberries ripen in transit? (2)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452536)

Because if they can, then we'd want the robots to pick them before they're ripe, so that they'll be ripe just as they show up on the display case in the store.

Re:can strawberries ripen in transit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34452554)

No.

Re:can strawberries ripen in transit? (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452898)

From my experience from my garden, no they don't. Might help to gas them with some ethene, which works as a ripening signal molecule in some plants. However... DO NOT WANT...

Re:can strawberries ripen in transit? (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453096)

Not that big a deal, all you do is mix different fruits together. Things like peaches release ethylene which will cause produce to ripen. There's nothing wrong with that. And honestly there's a bit too much paranoia when it comes to chemicals. The only concern over synthetic versions of natural chemicals is if there's a bit of byproduct left which might be dangerous.

Re:can strawberries ripen in transit? (5, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453134)

It's not that ethylene is bad, it's that ripening off the vine sucks. You're stuck with the amount of flavor when picked, ethylene just softens the fruit. On the vine the fruit can keep adding flavor as it softens. Strawberries are really only good ripened on the vine and eaten within 24 hours of being picked. Anything else is a pale imitation.

Re:can strawberries ripen in transit? (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453136)

Yeah, the fruit mixing thing works, true. I have no problems with chemicals per se - heck, I am a biochemist by trade. I just don't want tasteless, textureless industry strawberries resembling the atrocity the Netherlands used to unleash on the world under the label of "tomato". Thankfully that has improved a bit lately, though.

Re:can strawberries ripen in transit? (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453536)

Strawberries and other soft berries will not ripen after they pick. they will start rotting and become soft after picked.

Re:can strawberries ripen in transit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453566)

Yes. If strawberries are not in season where you live, then they're picked green somewhere else, and gassed with ethylene in transit. That's why the texture, taste, and color are never quite right. It's much prefferable to get them ripe.

Lot of track? (1)

AllWorkAndNoPlay (1952586) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452578)

The video seems to show this moving on smooth straight metal tracks. I wonder how adapting it to travel on uneven dirt paths will affect it's ability to cut the intended strawberry? Either that or they run track up each row in their one square kilometer field.

Re:Lot of track? (1)

vxice (1690200) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452666)

I would imagine it would be transported on a cart with wheels for moving on rough dirt. The robot would work on a small patch at a time.

Re:Lot of track? (3, Interesting)

AJWM (19027) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452710)

Locomotion and selection are two distinct problems. Presumably the selection/picking components could be added to a suitable chassis designed for navigation real fields (which could support a host of other picking and crop-tending apps).

If not, then they still don't need a track for each row, just a track that can be moved from one row to another. Perhaps make the fields circular with a radial track, like some irrigation systems.

Re:Lot of track? (2)

AllWorkAndNoPlay (1952586) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452860)

If the selection/picking algorithms are designed with the assumption that the robot will be perfectly upright and square to the ground, it's going to get really confused when one wheel of the cart is sitting on a rock. Using sensors to provide data to instruct actuators is all well and good, but it needs to be calibrated to support real-world data. Moving around the field, on dirt, will provide rather different data than metal tracks. I don't think the two problems are necessarily distinct.

Re:Lot of track? (2)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452790)

I suppose that if this provides enough of an advantage, then it makes sense to rework the whole field so that it lies on a perfectly flat and straight grid.

It's been done with warehouses (Kiva for instance), so why not in a field?

Re:Lot of track? (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452924)

I suppose that if this provides enough of an advantage, then it makes sense to rework the whole field so that it lies on a perfectly flat and straight grid.

It's been done with warehouses (Kiva for instance), so why not in a field?

I think the moisture and other elements in the fields will wreak havoc on this type of competition for human jobs.

Re:Lot of track? (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453040)

Why? Where's the big difference between this and a railroad? They need a bit of periodic maintenance, but they manage to survive the moisture and elements just fine.

Re:Lot of track? (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453378)

Fields of produce are watered daily and plants are mostly water. The railroad runs on tracks, these robots won't have that luxury. There is a big difference between the 'work' environments.

Re:Lot of track? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34452852)

The video seems to show this moving on smooth straight metal tracks. I wonder how adapting it to travel on uneven dirt paths will affect it's ability to cut the intended strawberry? Either that or they run track up each row in their one square kilometer field.

A lot of premium strawberry production is done hydroponically in greenhouses, especially in Japan. An almost ideal, controlled environment for robotic gardening.

Goodbye Mexicans! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34452606)

Goodbye Mexicans!

Re:Goodbye Mexicans! (3, Interesting)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452872)

While "Goodbye Mexicans" is a bit flamey, automating the jobs locals will never willingly do has always been a logical goal.

When we reduce manual labor, remove some jobs that draw poor people to the US, increase profits and make our farms more competitive we win.

We don't scrap massive combine harvesters in favor of horse-drawn equipment because they enormously increase productivity. Harvesting is dull, dirty, and sometime dangerous, ideal for robots.

Re:Goodbye Mexicans! (3, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452940)

And yet the design and manufacturing of these robots will take place in Japan so we won't see many local jobs from this except for some repair jobs.

Re:Goodbye Mexicans! (1)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453056)

And the truck drivers to get those parts, the ship captains and crew to get them across the ocean, the people to train the technicians, salesmen, and maybe even more people to harvest the raw materials required for the robots. This is ignoring the potential for more farms or for those who were farmers to create their own other line of work.

Re:Goodbye Mexicans! (4, Insightful)

Mysteray (713473) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453226)

Yeah and don't forget the advertising agencies who advertise and the lawyers who sue and the government inspectors to inspect and the ....

Dude, the only person producing new wealth in your scenario is the the farmer and look at all the overhead you're expecting him to bear.

Re:Goodbye Mexicans! (0)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453414)

"Dude, the only person producing new wealth in your scenario is the the farmer and look at all the overhead you're expecting him to bear."

The CUSTOMERS are bearing the load when they pay for the product. They pay for the whole supply chain and its support systems.

They get a more competitive marketplace (USians don't spend much of their income for food) which has helped keep food very affordable.

Re:Goodbye Mexicans! (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#34454006)

We don't, in this application, NEED to generate local jobs.

The goal is streamlined production, _destruction_ of jobs that draw illegals into the job market, more revenue for the farmer, and more competition in the marketplace.

It is over 97% percent accurate! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34452642)

In under 3% of cases the robot shoots the strawberry with a rocket launcher.

Re:It is over 97% percent accurate! (1)

box2 (1885028) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453014)

In under 3% of cases the robot shoots the strawberry with a rocket launcher.

Perhaps, but only because they wouldn't assume the party escort submission position.

How to change economics to fit abundance... (3, Informative)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452646)

http://knol.google.com/k/paul-d-fernhout/beyond-a-jobless-recovery [google.com]
"This article explores the issue of a "Jobless Recovery" mainly from a heterodox economic perspective. It emphasizes the implications of ideas by Marshall Brain and others that improvements in robotics, automation, design, and voluntary social networks are fundamentally changing the structure of the economic landscape. It outlines towards the end four major alternatives to mainstream economic practice (a basic income, a gift economy, stronger local subsistence economies, and resource-based planning). These alternatives could be used in combination to address what, even as far back as 1964, has been described as a breaking "income-through-jobs link". This link between jobs and income is breaking because of the declining value of most paid human labor relative to capital investments in automation and better design. Or, as is now the case, the value of paid human labor like at some newspapers or universities is also declining relative to the output of voluntary social networks such as for digital content production (like represented by this document). It is suggested that we will need to fundamentally reevaluate our economic theories and practices to adjust to these new realities emerging from exponential trends in technology and society."

and whats the fail out when very few have health c (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452890)

and whats the fail out when very few have health care? after all the jobs are gone?

Jam packed jails and lockup with people who just go in to get some health care?

lots of sick people who make the rich who can pay for it get sick off the people who can pay for it?

Re:and whats the fail out when very few have healt (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452946)

That's exactly the problem here - capitalism won't work when we automatize most of the jobs. We are seeing the transition into that right here, right now. The only question remaining is if the current system can fail and transform gracefully, or if it will end up in violence. I am not optimistic.

Re:and whats the fail out when very few have healt (2)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453124)

They said the same thing when the first steam engine powered the first factory. Human greed will never go away, and that is the engine of capitalism, not money, not labor. We will find other unmet wants to work on.

Re:and whats the fail out when very few have healt (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453156)

Well, if you automatize every menial job away, there won't me much to do for a lot of the population than sucking the owning classes' dicks and licking their boots. You want to go there?

Re:and whats the fail out when very few have healt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453792)

I'm confident that there will always be a demand for good dick-suckers, and the guys who train them.

But really, moving a lot of people over to non-menial jobs doesn't have to be a bad thing.
As plan B, they can always die for their country. Robots will never be able to replace us as meaningless human sacrifices.

Re:and whats the fail out when very few have healt (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453148)

In this case, I don't think that we can blame capitalism. 80 years ago it was assumed that by the turn of the next century that we'd be down to only working an average of 4 hours a day and getting to goof off the rest of the time. Which at the time seemed reasonable given that the work day had been shrinking.

But obviously that hasn't happened, the only people working short hours like that are doing it because they can't get more hours or don't have to support themselves.

Basically a few things happened. One was that people started to expect to own a lot of crap that they probably don't want and definitely don't need. Rather than being happy owning one car, people started buying two or more cars and rather than a rather basic model going for deluxe features.

That was bad, but then you had a lot of pseudo-intellectuals suggesting that we could all have more pie if we handed it to the richest to manage. Turns out that it doesn't work that way. The wealth comes from the production of things, not so much from the redistribution of things and the wealthy don't consider themselves to be responsible for the well being of the poor. There are exceptions, just not enough to make it work.

Re:and whats the fail out when very few have healt (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453174)

Aren't you blaming capitalism in your last paragraph? That's exactly the consequences of accumulation of capital. Pretty much orthodox Marxism, not that I disagree with that.

Re:and whats the fail out when very few have healt (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453474)

capitalism won't work when we automatize most of the jobs

It will work if you own capital.

Re:and whats the fail out when very few have healt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453560)

> capitalism won't work when we automatize most of the jobs.

Sure it will. It just means that you have to be smarter than a machine, and have a skill that cannot be trivially done by an industrial robot. Fortunately, this is not difficult; humans have evolved complex brains which excel at tasks that cannot be automated.

Paying people to do what machines can trivially do is a form of the Broken Window Fallacy.

Parable on structural unemployment & basic inc (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453900)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p14bAe6AzhA [youtube.com]

I made that to address the issues you raise...

Which are also addressed in the knol, too.
http://knol.google.com/k/paul-d-fernhout/beyond-a-jobless-recovery#Four_long(2D)term_heterodox_alternatives [google.com]

See also my comments here in response to Martin Ford's blog post:
    http://econfuture.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/robots-jobs-and-our-assumptions/ [wordpress.com]
"In brief, a combination of robotics and other automation, better design, and voluntary social networks are decreasing the value of most paid human labor (by the law of supply and demand). At the same time, demand for stuff and services is limited for a variety of reasons -- some classical, like a cyclical credit crunch or a concentration of wealth (aided by automation and intellectual monopolies) and some novel like people finally getting too much stuff as they move up Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs or a growing environmental consciousness. In order to move past this, our society needs to emphasize a gift economy (like Wikipedia or Debian GNU/Linux or blogging), a basic income (social security for all regardless of age), democratic resource-based planning (with taxes, subsidies, investments, and regulation), and stronger local economies that can produce more of their own stuff (with organic gardens, solar panels, green homes, and 3D printers). There are some bad "make work" alternatives too that are best avoided, like endless war, endless schooling, endless bureaucracy, endless sickness, and endless prisons. Simple attempts to prop things up, like requiring higher wages in the face of declining demand for human labor and more competition for jobs, will only accelerate the replacement process for jobs as higher wage requirements would just be more incentive to automate, redesign, and push more work to volunteer social networks. We are seeing the death spiral of current mainstream economics based primarily on a link between the right to consume and the need to have a job (even as there may remain some link for higher-than-typical consumption rates in some situations, even with a basic income, a gift economy, etc). ..."

In another comment I there I summarize these four progressive approaches in a bit more detail.

A nice side-effect of central planning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453018)

You have to bury too much of the population in holes before they accept your wonderful plans for them.

Re:How to change economics to fit abundance... (2)

Onymous Coward (97719) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453312)

Very interesting. Thanks for your work on this. I'll read it.

Meanwhile, for everyone else, here's a sci-fi primer on the idea of Burger-G and how you can expect to lose your job:

Manna [marshallbrain.com]

Rule 34 (0)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452652)

In the USA, we call them cherries.

Re:Rule 34 (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452704)

I think there's a tasteless joke in there, about the robot being Japanese and the cherry being ripe and that this somehow doesn't work out, but I just can't figure out a good punchline.

Reducing illegal immigration? (4, Interesting)

AJWM (19027) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452654)

Get the price of such robots down enough and there'll be little incentive to pay sub-par wages to migrant field workers. (Regardless of immigration status, but illegals are more exploitable.)

Conversely it could be because we've long had a source of cheap field labor that the US agricultural machinery business hasn't made such advances in robotics. Pity, really -- many of the issues a robotic strawberry picker has to deal with are common to the activity of a whole range of other robots. Build a general purpose agricultural field worker robot and have alternate software loads (and perhaps interchangeable picker mechanisms) for blueberries, tomatoes, whatever.

(Such picker robots, with appropriate sensors, could also be adapted to tasks like minefield clearing. Although that might lead to a scenario like that in the TV adaptation of Heinlein's "Jerry Was a Man".)

Re:Reducing illegal immigration? (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452810)

Unless you change the socioeconomic fabric of most of the 'third world' or somehow manage to pull off a full scale device copier ala Neal Stephenson or Star Trek, the economics are always going to strongly favor the cheap, disposable, highly configurable human.

To paraphrase Heinlein - Humans can make more humans, that's a trick that robots haven't figured out yet.

Re:Reducing illegal immigration? (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453282)

If that were true, we would still be using armies of laborers instead of tractors. Automation has already displaced the vast majority of labor in agriculture. In 1850 [about.com] farmers were 64% of the US labor force; now they're just a couple percent, even though the US is still a net exporter of food. Why would that process stop now?

Re:Reducing illegal immigration? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34452832)

Don't worry, they'll still need low-cost human labor to fix the machines and hose down the parts.

Hmm, this can't be a good trend for h. sapiens.

Re:Reducing illegal immigration? (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452882)

Picking grapes by machine would be very interesting. If you drive around the south of France, you see fields of grapes for miles, all of which need to be harvested by hand to make wine. There's often quite a short period between the grapes being read to harvest and being overripe for wine making, and harvesting them at exactly the right point can make a big difference to the quality of the final product. If you could make robots that would travel up and down the fields quickly, revisiting each vine each day over a week or so and picking the grapes at exactly the right time (rather than, as humans do, when the majority are at the right level of ripeness), then I can imagine that you'd have some customers who would be very happy to pay a premium for the machine.

I doubt the situation is the same for strawberries. They aren't exactly luxury goods and so cost is the most important factor.

Re:Reducing illegal immigration? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453800)

If you could make robots that would travel up and down the fields quickly, revisiting each vine each day over a week or so and picking the grapes at exactly the right time (rather than, as humans do, when the majority are at the right level of ripeness), then I can imagine that you'd have some customers who would be very happy to pay a premium for the machine.

You would bet right [wikipedia.org]. Mechanical harvesting of grapes has been around for a while. Almonds, too.

Re:Reducing illegal immigration? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34452914)

You'll use them for what 3-5 years after which they begin to break down, and you'll need replacements and people to repair and maintain them. And in that time, you'll have to order custom parts, because less than a year after production they'll be obsolete. Look at cars today, the older they are, the harder and more expensive they are to repair.

It's a nice concept, but that's all it will remain for the next fifty years.

Re:Reducing illegal immigration? (1)

espiesp (1251084) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453808)

Look at cars today, the older they are, the harder and more expensive they are to repair.

Citation Needed.

It's really nearly the opposite. Availability of automotive parts is rarely an issue except in cases of extremely rare or extremely old (and rare by virtue of age). However, the complexity of modern automobiles makes repairs time consuming and thus expensive. New cars also require high investment in specialty tools to keep up with the changes.

Re:Reducing illegal immigration? (1)

Troggie87 (1579051) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453084)

Growing up on a farm (and still occasionally going back to work on one) I can assure there are a lot of reasons we don't have robots in agriculture. Immigrants aren't the half of it.

For one, large chunks of the United States just aren't suited to using robots or GPS technology. Tremendous heat, terrible cold, thick dust, mud... creating a robot that can tolerate all of these conditions is a huge undertaking, and thats before you try and program it. You are talking military grade hardware, which isn't cheap. Not to mention no one in their right mind will create something fully autonomous, as in today's legal climate any error that results in, say, a child being run over would destroy either the farmer or the manufacturer (likely both). So you need a person right there to monitor... and in most cases that negates the whole point.

In some ideal locations farmers are experimenting with GPS to increase planting accuracy and yields, but in many places it simply doesn't work. A big farm in my area tried it, and every time the tractor hit a waterway (or if it was too cloudy) the GPS functionality would just crap out. From a cost to performance perspective, very few people are in a position to pay a lot of money for negligible gain (the interest on the loan likely offsets the profit), and so there isn't much market.

Now in the case of a strawberry farm... maybe. If they can keep the weight down I imagine it will work (the machine is far smaller, and the operating environment more consistent), and probably for a lot of fruit as well. I still think there are a lot of legal issues that will be wrestled with before anyone risks a machine mis-identifying a kid's mitten for a fruit. But honestly, don't expect to see robotic agriculture on any scale untill we at least figure out robotic cars. If you can't make a robotic car that can navigate straight lines, flat surfaces, and evaluate external inputs (pedestrians, stoplights, etc.) with 99.9999999% accuracy, then I seriously doubt you can make a "tractor" that deals with the ridiculous variables involved in everyday farming. One step at a time...

Re:Reducing illegal immigration? (1)

MadShark (50912) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453206)

Farmers only using GPS assisted planting in ideal locations? I disagree. They are used all over the place, with great success. John Deere sells tons of these units for exactly this purpose every year. Other manufacturers have similar products. Farmers wouldn't spend tens of thousands of dollars on these setups if they didn't work. Also, cloud cover should not have a significant effect on GPS signal strength. The clouds are essentially transparent to the frequencies it uses.

Re:Reducing illegal immigration? (2)

Troggie87 (1579051) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453374)

GPS units are primarily used in Kansas, and other extremely flat areas. There are superfarms syncing them together to allow one driver to control multiple machines as well. Though that is the stereotype of agriculture, there are many, many places that aren't flat and barren (and where the farms aren't big enough to justify the expense). In those areas the technology isn't catching on nearly as well, because of the issues I mentioned. And I don't know about you, but my car GPS loses strengh on cloudy days (and I know from firsthand accounts tractor GPSs do as well). In some areas the loss isn't nearly as significant, but for whatever reason rural areas struggle with GPS reception in general. I don't know much about how the GPS network works, so I can't comment on why that would be.

Re:Reducing illegal immigration? (2)

Mspangler (770054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453352)

Also having grown up on a farm, I'm more optimistic than you.

Robots to work in the cold is not a problem because there are no berries to pick, or anything else to harvest at 20 below zero. Too much heat for people is little trouble for electronics. Almost any chip will take 120 F. The rest is just fans. If we can cool a Pentium 4, we can keep the harvester circuits cool enough.

You do have a point with human supervision required for some cases, but again you can air condition a cab (or a supervisor's trailer) easily. It's a lot easier to be in a tractor with an enclosed cab than sitting on the "M" on a hot July day covered in the chaff from the oats combine. (We had a tow-behind model.)

GPS on a berry farm seems like overkill. Install a two or three local RF beacons. Triangulate off of them.

Now, how much armor plate does it take to get it to survive the blackberry patch?

And how long until it can do cucumbers? Those were the bane of my childhood, as picking them was the only solution to my cash shortage.

And how long until it can distinguish weeds from crops?

Re:Reducing illegal immigration? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453090)

Checkout the movie "Runaway". There's a scene where a small pest harvesting robot goes haywire. Some labor intensive crops could definitely be handled better by robots if the cost can be reduced. I'm surprised the Japanese one keys strictly off color. With a lot of fruits the better indicator would be sniffing certain chemicals. It could be a major boon to the wine industry if only grapes that had peaked in sugar content were harvested. The potential is massive but the cost probably have to be reduced drastically first. Japan, home of the $200 melons, can better handle the costs for expensive fruits. Also the device appears to be designed for factory greenhouses and not roaming the fields. There have been massive leaps forward in the last ten years but I'd say we are still 20+ years away from seeing cheap roaming harvesters. You may see some in 10 years but they won't be widely available for decades.

Re:Reducing illegal immigration? (1)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453402)

Strawberries are the low hanging fruit, if you'll excuse the pun :)

The robot has to have the video cameras anyway in order to be able to pick the fruit, so you might as well use the same hard to both identify the fruit to be picked and to accurately position the picker arm. One less sensor to build, calibrate and integrate with the rest of the system.

Re:Reducing illegal immigration? (2)

Puls4r (724907) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453196)

Really? That's interesting. I must have missed the pictures where Americans grow their strawberrys on shelves like that, in climate controlled automatically ferilized and watered greenhouses, etc etc etc. I think, perhaps, we might do well to understand what is driving them to that rather expensive farming method: lack of space. That forces them into a tiered shelving system indoor that is already significantly automated and is ideal for a delicate robot vision / automation system that could move along rails. Then we can compare that to our system of doing it in nice, dirty fields with uneven ground, where the strawberries are not hanging from pretty shelves but must be located under and behind foilage and picked. I applaud your optimism, but this is really not much of an innovation considering we've been using vision systems for the same sort of things in mass production for the last 20 years. We're not to the point of flying cars just yet.

Re:Reducing illegal immigration? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453960)

As the product of American (and Californian) agriculture and the berry farms I must dispute some of this. You are assuming that the industry hasn't gained from robotics, this is patently false. Field tilling is done 100% automated, most combines still require a driver but they are essentially on auto pilot for the entire area. USGS surveys + GPS on a slow moving barge is more than accurate enough to maintain the pace that a highly skilled combine driver can, without risking t-boning cars on frontage roads.

As this goes, the drivers of such machines are much more specialized, and cost more to get a "good one" but it pays off in spades since it takes only one good course plotter to line the rows for many years.

Picking bots is kinda the final piece, think of it as the linux kernel to the gnu system ;) The other pieces are there, and I can pretty much guarantee if this works in test driscols will try it.

robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34452692)

Farmers everywhere will be screaming "The Cylons took our jobs"

Apropos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34452794)

Quote on page bottom as I read the comments:
"Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?"

No Thank You (3, Interesting)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452824)

Truly amazing technology! But... The idea that this sort of thing will free people to lead more leisure lives is nonsense. What technology like this does is eliminate jobs for humans, who will than have to find other jobs, and eventually, in the end, result in huge unemployment, and a more defined caste system of super rich and dirt poor.

Seriously.

Re:No Thank You (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34452836)

It's not the fault of those of us trying to improve the lives of humanity that we have a stupid economic system where the advances of the society are shared unequally.

Re:No Thank You (1)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453080)

It's not the fault of those who benefit most from the economic system that there are large numbers of mediocre people who bring nothing to the system and therefore draw little. No one forces anyone to remain unskilled.

Re:No Thank You (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34452874)

Why would you exclude a middle class caste which is arguably far bigger in number than the super rich caste?

Re:No Thank You (1)

AllWorkAndNoPlay (1952586) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452930)

So is it better for the humans who lose their jobs picking strawberries 8 hours a day to be able to walk at 40 because they didn't spend a decade hunched over straining their back, or to be in a position of finding a different profession? Being able to walk sounds like great leisure to me.

Re:No Thank You (2)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452976)

So is it better for the humans who lose their jobs picking strawberries 8 hours a day ...

Gain some perspective. It is *not* the task itself, but the *trend* to automate. As machines replace those who for whatever reason choose or find themselves in physical labor, those jobs will go away, and people who are *good but simple* will no longer have jobs. After them, *YOUR* "middle class" job will be eliminated, and you will become part of the Surfs. Think about it, and you will see that in the end of the "Automate Everything" trend, only the rich and super rich will have meaningful lives and the only alternative will be subservience.

Re:No Thank You (0)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453048)

Well sure, the *good but simple* people will lose out, but what about the *mediocre and retarded* people?

I don't see how my middle class job is going to be eliminated because a robot performs repetitive tasks. I don't perform a job that can be automated.

Aside from that, if everything is automated, what exactly would the subservient be subservient to? Just slaving away for kicks?

Re:No Thank You (2)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453188)

Well sure, the *good but simple* people will lose out, but what about the *mediocre and retarded* people?

You know, if you're that much of an asshole, well, sucks to be you.

In the end, self-centered assholes like you die alone and lonely. So enjoy.

Re:No Thank You (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453542)

Think about it, and you will see that in the end of the "Automate Everything" trend, only the rich and super rich will have meaningful lives and the only alternative will be subservience.

Only within the existing capitalist framework - which would become more and more redundant in that scenario. There is little doubt that those in power would try to preserve it, but it doesn't have to be that way.

This [marshallbrain.com] is a fairly good treatment of the problem, and both possible outcomes.

Re:No Thank You (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34452962)

Only as long as we allow the constant accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few. It does not necessarily have to be that way.

Re:No Thank You (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453214)

You said what I was going to say much more succinctly. 80 years ago the assumption was that workers would be down to like 4 hours a day by now. Due to gains in efficiency. Instead what happened was the rich started to take bigger slices, like they had prior to the labor movement.

Of course it doesn't help that people start to buy things they didn't need and didn't particularly want and definitely couldn't afford.

Re:No Thank You (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453266)

Well, thank you. The thing to do now is to find a way to make it work for everyone and not for the few. Obviously the orthodox models of Marxism are not doing it, but I still think that shared ownership of the means of production is the only way to go in a fully automatized society. The devil is in the details, as usual, though.

Re:No Thank You (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453748)

80 years ago the assumption was that workers would be down to like 4 hours a day by now. Due to gains in efficiency. Instead what happened was the rich started to take bigger slices, like they had prior to the labor movement.

People who made those assumptions are idiots, and many people still think that way. Technology is meant to accomplish more, not provide more leisure time. Huge difference.

Re:No Thank You (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453026)

Really? I have lots of free time, work far shorter hours, have a much higher standard of living than my parents did at my age and a vastly higher standard of living than any of my grandparents did at my age. I'm definitely not super rich (well, except in the sense that anyone living in an industrialised western nation is in the top 10% of the world's wealth), but I certainly would not be able to enjoy my current lifestyle if it were not for the fact that automation has brought down the cost of living comfortably. If wheat still needed to be harvested by men with scythes and clothes still needed to be hand sewn from cloth made by someone with a hand loom that took a week to weave a single piece (from hand-spun wool), then I would be barely able to afford food, let alone clothes.

I live in a society where bread is so cheap that I can afford to eat a few slices from a loaf and then throw the rest of it away! And this isn't even a prerogative of the middle classes, even the 'poor' people can generally afford to do it. I can walk into a hospital or a GP's surgery and be prescribed drugs that will cure diseases that would have killed the richest man in the world a hundred years ago. This is almost entirely due to automation.

Yes, some jobs have gone away, but somehow I don't really find the fact that I never had the opportunity as a child to work in a coal mine particularly upsetting. I am very happy, in contrast, with the fact that I can be paid to write books and articles by a publisher in the USA and by companies all over the world to write code. This would have been completely impossible even thirty years ago and difficult ten or so years ago.

Seriously.

Re:No Thank You (3, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453276)

That's not true. My last job was paying $27k a year. Rent around here if you want some place decent to live it is at least $8400 a year, health insurance if you're paying out of pocket is easily another $3600, bus pass is another grand there. Then there's the taxes, another something like $3300 for social security and another grand or so for income tax.

And when you get to the bottom line there's very little left over for actual life. I was busting my hump for that money, and it still wasn't realistically enough to live a reasonably good life. Certainly not enough to throw away food or waste stuff I'd paid for.

Re:No Thank You (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453910)

What exactly were you doing at your last job in which you were busting your hump for 27k a year?

My guess would be that whatever it was, if you were doing it (or something comparable) a 100 years ago, your standard of living would've been a lot worse than it is now.

People tend to forget that malnourishment -- not having enough food to eat -- was constant threat for the majority of world's population for, pretty much the entirety of the existence of the human race, right up to the second half of 20th century. People tend to forget fast (or if young, never bother to read history) and their definition of standard of living changes fast (I don't have a iPad G4 with unlimited data plan so I'm poor!).

People think Mexico is a dirt-poor country in which everyone lives in miserable poverty, where the only hope of a better life is to swim across the river and make it to the U.S. But did you know that obesity is a huge problem in Mexico? The rate of obesity is higher in Mexico than even the USA. That's right, most of the people in this dirt-poor nation EAT TOO MUCH FOOD.

Re:No Thank You (2)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453322)

I have lots of free time, work far shorter hours, have a much higher standard of living than my parents did at my age

Are you an immigrant? That is no longer the norm in the US.

Re:No Thank You (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453044)

The last time it happened (mechanization of agriculture) was back in the second half of the 19th century. That time is now referred to as a golden age in many countries around the world. Democracy and knowledge made huge strides.

On the other hand you're right that unemployment was a major problem. It's going to become a major problem soon again. Three major options then open themselves to governments: to educate the unemployed, to employ the unemployed in public works, or to arm the unemployed...

Forbidding robotics is not going to work, because it would have to be a global ban by a world government. (NWO buffs may argue that such a government will exist.)

First Blood? Look at the UI (1)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453020)

In the video attached to the story, look at the user interface on the robot - It has a big red button marked "First Blood". Why??

Re:First Blood? Look at the UI (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453198)

It really does have a button labelled First Blood (in the second video showing the UI, look at the big red button in the lower-left corner of the main graphics window.

Perhaps Sylvester Stallone was hired as a consultant? ;)

Vines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453138)

But of course, raspberries grow on bushes, not vines.

Re:Vines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453996)

They're called canes. Bramble fruit grow on canes.

Too slow. (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34453142)

From observation to collection, the harvesting process takes about 9 seconds per berry. That's too slow.

This isn't the first strawberry-picking robot. Here's one from five years ago. [technovelgy.com] But compare this with a commercial strawberry harvester [youtube.com] that's just digging up the beds. (Note, incidentally, that the tractor is driverless. That's standard precision farming technology today; several GPS manufacturers make the gear for that.)

Automated fruit sorting using computer vision is a routine process, and it's really fast. [youtube.com] Small-fruit sorting machines are strange to watch. Cameras watch the fruit go by, and air jets push it around. This is all happening in bulk, much faster than humans can even watch, as big conveyors pump a stream of mixed product through the machine and streams of sorted product come out.

Robotic tomato pickers have been built by several groups, but so far the machines are too slow and the cost is too high.

In practice, the way agricultural sorting works is that the good stuff is sold is fresh fruit, the not-so-good stuff goes off to make jellies, tomato paste, and such, and the rejected stuff becomes animal feed or fertilizer.

Tomatoes anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34453516)

Great, so now we're going to suffer with shitty berries [findarticles.com] too?

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