Your Apples May Soon Be Picked by Laser-Shooting Robots


A bowl of salad is a beautiful collection of human ingenuity. 

A bowl of salad is a beautiful collection of human ingenuity. The lettuce requires its own specialized agricultural process, as do the tomatoes, as do the garbanzo beans. Then comes the simple act of pulling these ingredients out of the ground, a challenge our dextrous human hands complete with ease. As for robots? Not so much.

This is why roboticists are creating crop-specific machines to harvest fruits and veggies. There’s the robot that harvests lettuce with a knife made of water. Now comes the apple-picking robot, a metallic farmer that just graduated from R&D and won a job in a New Zealand orchard. Its deployment may be limited at the moment, sure, but it’s a glimpse at a future in which hyper-specialized robots help feed our growing species.

The robot (it’s thus far nameless, in case you were wondering), developed by a company called Abundant Robotics, navigates the rows between apple trees using lidar, which paints the world with lasers, and images the fruits with machine vision.

“In real time it’s recognizing apples,” says Dan Steere, CEO of Abundant. “If it's ripe, then the computer system sequences it for the robotic arm to pick.” Maybe not so much as pick but slurp—the arm uses a vacuum tube to suck the delicate fruit off the plant. The apple then hits a conveyor, which ferries it into a bin. The robot can do this 24 hours a day, scooting up and down the rows of the orchard, skipping not-quite-ripe fruits to return to later, as a human picker would.

Read more at Wired

Photo Credit: ulleo via Pixabay