Meet Toru, the German robot that’s picking through your packages

Great ideas aren’t always actionable. When Frederick Brantner first decided to build a highly selective picking robot, he thought he’d introduce the device to homes. He imagined the robot organizing the living room and separating light laundry from dark, decluttering the kids room and tidying shoes by the door. What Brantner didn’t initially foresee was how expensive such a machine would be on the consumer market, so he reimagined his brainchild for industrial uses.

Toru is a line of automated warehouse robots that Brantner and his company, Magazino, hope will make the picking and shipping industry more efficient. The machines are designed to navigate warehouses, identify single objects, such as an envelope or book, and use an artificial “tongue” and “arm” to hold surrounding objects in place as they pick the desired parcel from the shelf. Sounds simple? Not for a machine.

Robots can walk and dance with relative ease. They can twirl pencils and help carry your bags with some training. But when it comes to picking individual objects from a shelf, they really struggle.

“Despite the many capabilities of these highly intelligent machines, the most difficult actions for robots are hand-eye coordination, perception, and mobility,” Brantner told Digital Trends. He points out that machines can perform relatively complex tasks with ease but can’t keep up with 1-year-olds in other cases.

“Identifying, localization, and grabbing a toy … is second nature for a toddler,” he said. “For a robot, interpreting the signals of a camera and translating appropriately is an enormous task.”

As far as speed is concerned, Toru isn’t quite up to human standards yet. Brantner admits the machine works slower than people pickers, but still, it doesn’t take lunch breaks. “Toru has no limitation on the number of hours it can work for. For example: Even if Toru’s performance is only 50 percent of a human picker, by working 16 hours instead of a eight hour shift, the result is the same.”

But Brantner insists we shouldn’t worry about Toru taking our jobs. The machine is built to work around and alongside humans, he said, using sensors to avoid collisions, and assisting with lifting objects that are heavy and high up. “Toru is designed to be as flexible as a human, as a colleague,” he said.

In April, Toru took a test run at the shipping center of the world’s largest logistics company, DHL. In time, it might be common for Toru to have picked one of your packages while working the late shift.

Emerging Tech

No faking! Doctors can now objectively measure how much pain you’re in

Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine have discovered the blood biomarkers that can objectively reveal just how much pain a patient is in. Here's why that's so important.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (February 2019)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Emerging Tech

Hong Kong’s vision for a smart prison is a full-blown Orwellian nightmare

Hong Kong wants to bring prisons up to date by introducing new location-tracking wristbands for inmates, and a robot arm whose job is to comb through poop on the lookout for contraband.
Emerging Tech

SeaBubbles’ new electric hydrofoil boat is the aquatic equivalent of a Tesla

What do you get if you combine a Tesla, a flying car, and a sleek boat? Probably something a bit like SeaBubbles, the French "flying" boat startup which offers a fresh spin on the hydrofoil.
Emerging Tech

We tried a $500 electronic dab rig, and now we can’t go back to normal vaporizers

Induction heating is the future of cannabis vaporizers. Loto Labs wowed us with what likely is the best concentrate vaporizer on the market today. With a $500 price tag, it's expensive, but it should definitely be your next dab rig.
Emerging Tech

Israel will launch world’s first privately funded moon mission tomorrow

This week will see the world's first privately funded lunar mission launch. Israel's first mission to the moon will be launched aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday, February 21.
Emerging Tech

FDA warns about the dangers of anti-aging blood transfusions

It turns out injecting old people with blood from healthy youngsters may not be the answer to health rejuvenation. That’s according to the FDA, which says such claims are dangerous junk science.
Emerging Tech

Bees can do arithmetic, setting the scientific community abuzz

A new study has found something remarkable: Bees can do basic arithmetic. Researchers showed that bees could use colors as representations for numbers and then use those colors for addition and subtraction.
Emerging Tech

DeepSqueak is a machine learning A.I. that reveals what rats are chatting about

Want to know what rats are squeaking about? You'd better check out DeepSqueak, the new deep learning artificial intelligence developed by researchers at the University of Washington.
Health & Fitness

Immune cell discovery takes us one step closer to a universal flu vaccine

A group of international researchers have made a discovery which could take us one step closer to the universal, one-shot flu vaccine that people around the world have been dreaming of.
Photography

NASA celebrates Earth’s incredible natural beauty with free photo book

NASA has published a fabulous new book featuring stunning imagery captured by its satellites over the years. A hardback version is available for $53, though it can also be downloaded to ebook readers for free, and enjoyed online.
Deals

This new all-in-one flashlight is a power bank, lighter, and screwdriver

The Pyyros modular flashlight can perform numerous field tasks, from hammering to starting fires. If you back it on Kickstarter now, you can score some savings on this innovative flashlight and multi-tool, but act fast: This early-bird…