From Jason Best, SlashFood
: We may still be a long way from the kind of future where C3PO is on hand to decant your favorite wine for you, but it seems we're inching ever closer to the age of the robot.
To wit, the recent Fourth Robot Awards, in Japan, where two industrial food-processing robots took top prizes. The first is a machine that looks downright terrifying -- just a long, sleek robot arm with a gleaming knife welded to one end. It's the HAMDAS-R, developed by Mayekawa Electric, and it's designed to remove ham bones -- a lot of them. Five hundred in an hour, which is twice as fast as a human's capability to debone a ham.
As Popular Science reports, what's previously kept robots out of the gruesome business of meat processing is that they generally haven't been so good at telling the difference between meat and bone, leaving results that we're guessing looked something like tossing a pork chop into a blender. The HAMDAS-R, however, "is able to consistently distinguish meat from bone," which garnered it the top prize in the Small Business and Venture category.
In the Service Robot category, the Excellence Award went to Japan's National Agriculture and Food Research Organization for a robot that, amazingly, can harvest strawberries. The 'bot uses double cameras to both get an image of the target berry in 3D and also to detect color, which means it can tell the differences between what's ripe and what's not. It then snips the stalk without damaging the berry, all in a manner of nine seconds per berry.
So is an organic strawberry still an organic strawberry if it's picked by a robot?