July 2, 2022

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No slip-ups! Video captures robot successfully peeling a banana without squashing the delicate fruit

4 min read

While most people can easily peel a banana from a young age, the seemingly easy task is tricky for most robots.

Robots often lack the dexterity to peel a banana without smushing the delicate fruit inside in the process.

Now, researchers from the University of Tokyo have developed a robot that they say has finally cracked it.

The bot was trained by machine learning to imitate a human demonstrator and managed to successfully peel a banana – albeit in three minutes.

Robots often lack the dexterity to peel a banana without smushing the delicate fruit inside in the process. Now, researchers from the University of Tokyo have developed a robot that they say has finally cracked it

Bouebot: The cheese-fondue-making robot

A Swiss team has been working away on Bouebot, a robot that can whip up the perfect cheese fondue.

The robot, which cost up to £240,000 ($325,000) to develop, pours white wine into a classic fondue mix of Vacherin Fribourgeois and Gruyere.

Bouebot next does some figure-of-eight stirring as the cheese melts, then sprinkles in some pepper to finish off.

It then picks up a metal spike, pierces a piece of bread, and places it in a holder for fondue-lovers to try before the gooey cheese drips down.

The bot is being developed by a team at Workshop 4.0, based in Sierre, who manoevre it using a control pad.    

The robot features two arms and hands, each with two ‘fingers’ that can grasp objects.

To train it, one patient researcher peeled hundreds of bananas over the course of more than 13 hours, producing enough data to train the robot to do it by itself.

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‘Considering the complexity of the target banana peeling task, we think 13.h hours of demonstration is feasible,’ the researchers wrote in their study, published in arXiv.

While it might seem straightforward to us, the researchers simplified the task for the robot by breaking it down into nine stages.

This included grasping the banana, picking it up off the table, grabbing the tip and peeling it.

Once the researchers had trained the robot, they put it to the test on a pile of bananas.

They found that the bot was able to successfully peel a banana without mushing it 57 per cent of the time.

On average, the whole process took less than three minutes each time.

Aside from being a bit of fun, the researchers hope the technology behind the robot could be applied in the future for other tasks that require fine motor skills.

Once the researchers had trained the robot, they put it to the test on a pile of bananas. They found that the bot was able to successfully peel a banana without mushing it 57 per cent of the time

Once the researchers had trained the robot, they put it to the test on a pile of bananas. They found that the bot was able to successfully peel a banana without mushing it 57 per cent of the time 

The banana-peeling isn’t the only food-based device revealed in recent weeks.

A Swiss team has been working away on Bouebot, a robot that can whip up the perfect cheese fondue.

The robot, which cost up to £240,000 ($325,000) to develop, pours white wine into a classic fondue mix of Vacherin Fribourgeois and Gruyere.

Bouebot next does some figure-of-eight stirring as the cheese melts, then sprinkles in some pepper to finish off.

It then picks up a metal spike, pierces a piece of bread, and places it in a holder for fondue-lovers to try before the gooey cheese drips down.

See also  Dryers release almost as many microfibres as washing machines, study says

The bot is being developed by a team at Workshop 4.0, based in Sierre, who manoevre it using a control pad.    

WILL YOUR JOB BE TAKEN BY A ROBOT? PHYSICAL JOBS ARE AT THE GREATEST RISK

Physical jobs in predictable environments, including machine-operators and fast-food workers, are the most likely to be replaced by robots.

Management consultancy firm McKinsey, based in New York, focused on the amount of jobs that would be lost to automation, and what professions were most at risk.

The report said collecting and processing data are two other categories of activities that increasingly can be done better and faster with machines. 

This could displace large amounts of labour – for instance, in mortgages, paralegal work, accounting, and back-office transaction processing.

Conversely, jobs in unpredictable environments are least are risk.

The report added: ‘Occupations such as gardeners, plumbers, or providers of child- and eldercare – will also generally see less automation by 2030, because they are technically difficult to automate and often command relatively lower wages, which makes automation a less attractive business proposition.’

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