Coming to fruition


I feel vindicated again. Another one of my ideas is coming to fruition – quite literally. I don’t proclaim any credit however but find the whole issue amusing. Life is imitating blogging.

Back in June I wrote about an idea for a gardinator machine.

‘If there are apps to recognise plants then these apps must also be able to recognise weeds. Couple this information to a machine, similar to an automated vacuum cleaner only with a cutter and digger and you could have an automated weeder. It may need to be on legs rather than wheels to get into those more difficult beds.’

It turns out that it is not weeds that will be the focus of this technological innovation. According to the Telegraph,  ‘A robot designed to replace migrant strawberry pickers will be ready by Brexit’. I don’t know if the headline is politically motivated as it will be a machine to pick the fruit rather than to replace the people. A reduction in migrant strawberry pickers may well be a consequence.

It would seem that there are still a few design feature to get through. Dextrous manipulation in unstructured environments is a big challenge for robotics today. Fruit picking may look simple but for a machine it is highly complex. It has to be able to recognise fruits of different sizes, from different angles, whether it is ripe and be able to pick it without damaging either the fruit or the plant.

All of this is easy for a human, if not back-breaking. For the majority of our evolutionary time, the ability to recognise and pick fruit has been a key skill. Natural selection has made us experts.

The Telegraph article left me with the impression that the machine was not quite as advanced as the headline suggested yet one thing is certain, once it is built it will be able to resist the temptation to eat some of the produce along the way.

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