Robots replacing humans on production lines started decades ago, and as robot technology becomes more sophisticated, so they will replace more human jobs. The latest job to go is also one of the more delicate operations humans perform: harvesting tomatoes.
Grocery stores and consumers only want to be picking up perfect-looking tomatoes when shopping, so it’s very important to harvest each tomato without dropping or damaging it in any way. As Nikkei Technology reports, Panasonic’s new robot achieves this by using a combination of a camera, range image sensor, and artificial intelligence to plan and execute the perfect cut-and-catch action.
The tomato-harvesting robot was setup to carry out its harvesting duties during the International Robot Exhibition held in early December at the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition center. As you can see in the video above, the robot efficiently cuts each tomato, only selecting those it has assessed as soon-to-be-ripe and therefore edible.
In terms of speed, Panasonic claims it can match a human worker by harvesting 10 tomatoes every minute. If you also factor in the robot never needs a break, you can see the efficiency gains possible. However, as the video above also shows, the robot isn’t perfect and can drop the tomatoes it cuts from the vine.
The key to the robot’s speed is the fast movement of the arm combined with the AI system Panasonic employed to select edible tomatoes. The robot can be mounted on a rail system allowing it to quickly move from one vine to another.
There’s no word yet on when the tomato-harvesting robot army will arrive at farms, but I doubt it will be too long before we’re eating fresh tomatoes picked by AI and a robot arm.
Article & Image credit here.