24 SERVO 09.2014
GETTING THE FINGERS
Apparently, we humans are tired of being constrained to
the number of limbs and digits we were genetically coded
for. We want extra everything because more is always better,
so an extra pair of robotic fingers is definitely something
that we need. Why? Because with seven fingers on each
hand, we have the potential to be 40 percent more efficient
at things like typing.
The MIT researchers who came up with these
"supernumerary robotic fingers" didn't have increased typing
speed in mind as the very first application for their human
enhancement system, however. Instead, the fingers are
designed to enhance grasping motions, allowing you to do
with one hand what you'd otherwise have to do with two.
NEW ROBOTS CROPPING
While several robotics companies have taken
intermittent stabs at getting robot harvesters to work on
both specific and generalized crops with mixed results, a
huge research project from the European Union has
recently come to fruition with Clever Robots for Crops:
"a highly configurable, modular and clever carrier platform"
to efficiently and reliably harvest fruits and veggies.
The CROPS Project began four years ago and is now
nearing completion. Here was the original goal:
CROPS will develop scientific know-how for a highly
configurable, modular, and clever carrier platform that includes
modular parallel manipulators and intelligent tools (sensors,
algorithms, sprayers, grippers) that can be easily installed onto the
carrier and are capable of adapting to new tasks and conditions.
Several technological demonstrators will be developed for high
value crops like greenhouse vegetables, fruits in orchards, and
grapes for premium wines.
The CROPS robotic platform will be capable of site-specific
spraying (targets spray only towards foliage and selective targets)
and selective harvesting of fruit (detects the fruit, determines its
ripeness, moves towards the fruit, grasps it, and softly detaches it).
Another objective of CROPS is to develop techniques for reliable
detection and classification of obstacles and other objects to
enable successful autonomous navigation and operation in
plantations and forests. The agricultural and forestry applications
share many research areas, primarily regarding sensing and
A bunch of different prototype platforms are under
development, including robots that can autonomously harvest
sweet peppers, grapes, and apples, and robots that can
execute precision spraying from ground level to canopy. Also
on the development list are robots capable of performing
generalized tasks like trellising, pruning, leaf picking, and crop
sensing and monitoring.