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Ranchers in Australia could be getting some robotic help from SwagBots

SwagBot: the first robot cowboy
The Australian Bush might’ve been the last frontier in resisting the relentless onslaught of technology and its bots, drones, and other newfangled hardware. But no longer. Say hello to SwagBot, the non-human addition to Australia’s team of swagmen. No, these aren’t just guys with a lot of confidence — rather, they’re what the Aussies call ranch hands, who have spent generations looking over the country’s rugged terrain. And now, they’re getting a bit of 21st-century help.

SwagBot, an all-terrain robot vehicle, hopes to one day be able to independently look after the countryside of Australia, allowing humans to look after other, less demanding tasks. These machines are capable of herding cattle, and navigating around tricky obstacles like ditches, logs, and swamps common in the less-settled parts of Australia. The SwagBots have been in a trial period for about a month now, and soon researchers hope that these digitized helpers will be able to identify animals that are sick or injured.

“The trial has been very successful so far, so it’s given us the confidence to move to the next phase,” said Salah Sukkarieh of the University of Sydney, who is leading the trial. “Over the next few months, we’ll be looking at what algorithms we need to put together to allow the animal monitoring.”

Should this prove successful, it’ll be the first time that farm robots will be employed to monitor livestock health, the New Scientist reports. In addition, SwagBot may be tasked with checking for and spraying invasive plant life, inspecting fences, and even helping out with chores like carrying around firewood.

While the bots currently depend upon humans to operate them, the hopes is that they will eventually work entirely independently from their flesh and blood overlords.

So stay tuned, friends. There may be a new cowboy in town, but it’s not like anything you’ve seen before.

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