Self-driving apple harvesting robot suctions the fruit off trees

Picking apples isn’t a challenge that you’d necessarily think calls for the latest high tech robotic technology to solve. That hasn’t been enough to stop California-based startup Abundant Robotics, however. The company has developed a cutting edge solution to the apple-picking problem in the form of an autonomous tractor-style vehicle which can navigate through orchards using Lidar. Once it spots the apples it seeks, it’s able to detect their ripeness using image recognition technology. It can then reach out and literally suction its chosen apples off the trees and into an on-board storage bin.

We first wrote about this still-unnamed robot apple picker back in 2016, when Abundant founder Dan Steere told us that it was still a couple of years from commercialization. “Production of many types of fruits and vegetables is harder to automate than other types of agriculture,” Steere told Digital Trends at the time. “With apples, the main problems are that fruit is hard for computers to see, and it’s delicate. Until now it has not been possible to either reliably identify produce or automate harvesting without damaging the produce.”

Jump forward to the present day, and Abundant’s apple-sucking creation has been completed and officially brought to market. It already has its first customer, too, in the form of a New Zealand orchard. “Picking fruit is heavy work,” Peter Landon-Lane, COO of apple grower T&G Global, told Wired. “To pick a hectare of apples involves pickers collectively doing something like 5 vertical miles going up and down ladders. With mechanization and robotics, it allows us to take out a lot of the heavy work.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve covered fruit and vegetable-picking robotic tech. Other projects in this vein include robots designed to pick strawberries, tomatoes and cucumbers. We have also written about autonomous robot tractors. The hope is that using robots for picking tasks can greatly help improve efficiency, since they are able to work 24/7. With a big shortfall in the number of humans willing to work these produce-picking jobs, robots could prove to be a vital tool for the future of agriculture as we know it.

Deals

Apple Watch Series 3 and Samsung Gear S3 smartwatches get big price cuts

The Apple Watch Series 3 and Samsung Gear S3 are at some of the lowest prices we've seen since so far this year. With discounts from Amazon and Walmart, now is a great time to find spring savings on wearables.
Cars

Apple’s interest in self-driving cars reported to be revving up

A new report suggests that Apple is in talks with a number of suppliers to purchase lidar sensors, an essential tool for self-driving cars. The news is once again spiking rumors that Apple might be building vehicles.
Deals

Looking to upgrade? These are the best iPhone deals for April 2019

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for April 2019.
Deals

Need a new tablet? Here are the best iPad deals for April 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for April 2018.
Emerging Tech

Happy birthday, Hubble! Telescope celebrates with image of Southern Crab Nebula

In 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into low Earth orbit, where it has remained for nearly three decades collecting information about deep space. To celebrate its birthday, Hubble imaged the beautiful Southern Crab Nebula.
Emerging Tech

Star gives off superflare equal to 80 billion megatonnes of TNT. That’s a lot

A tiny star the size of Jupiter has been observed giving off a massive superflare 10 times more powerful than any flare from our Sun. The findings are raising questions about how much energy small stars can hold.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robots that eat landmines and clean your floors

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

SpaceX experiences problem during test, Crew Dragon capsule may have exploded

SpaceX has experienced a problem during the testing of its Crew Dragon capsule. During the engine test firing at Cape Canaveral yesterday afternoon, an unspecified anomaly occurred which lead to plumes of smoke rising from the test site.
Emerging Tech

Beresheet crash caused by manual command, but reflector device may have survived

Details are emerging about what may have gone wrong with spacecraft Beresheet's failed moon landing. A manual command was entered which led to a chain reaction. But NASA still hopes to salvage use of its Laser Retroreflector Array device.
Emerging Tech

The oldest type of molecule in the universe has been located at last

A milestone in the development of the early universe was the combination of helium and hydrogen atoms into a molecule called helium hydride. But strangely enough, this ancient molecule has never been detected in space before now.
Emerging Tech

Mercury’s wobble as it spins reveals that it has an inner solid core

Scientists have long wondered what the inside of Mercury looks like, and they now have strong evidence that the planet has a large and solid metallic core. The data for the new findings was collected by the now-defunct MESSENGER mission.
Emerging Tech

Gravitational forces at heart of Milky Way shaped this star cluster like a comet

Hubble has captured the stunning Messier 62 cluster. The cluster is warped, with a long tail which stretches out to form a shape like a comet. It is thought this distortion is due to Messier 62's proximity to the center of the galaxy.
Emerging Tech

The grid of the future will be powered by … giant subterranean bagpipes?

In order to transition to a more renewable-focused energy system, we need to scale up our grid storage capacity --- and our existing methods aren't going to cut it. Could compressed air be the key?
Emerging Tech

Burgers are just the beginning: Embracing the future of lab-grown everything

You’ve almost certainly heard of the 'farm to fork' movement, but what about 'lab to table'? Welcome to the fast-evolving world of lab-grown meat. Is this the future of food as we know it?