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Machine see, machine do: Japanese robot can peel bananas cleanly

Lifestyle

Machine see, machine do: Japanese robot can peel bananas cleanly

Researcher believes the training method can teach robots to do different simple ‘human’ tasks

Rikako Maruyama and Akiko Okamoto
A dual-armed robot picks up a banana and peels it without squashing the fruit inside during a demonstration.
A dual-armed robot picks up a banana and peels it without squashing the fruit inside during a demonstration.
Image: The University of Tokyo/REUTERS

Robots in Japan are found on factory floors carrying out simple tasks or delivering food to restaurant patrons, but researchers have now unveiled a robot capable of executing the delicate task of peeling a banana without squashing the fruit inside.

While the dual-armed machine is only successful 57% of the time, banana peeling points to a future in which machines undertake more subtle operations than moving metal parts or delivering coffee.

Video from researchers at the University of Tokyo showed the robot pick up and peel a banana with both hands in about three minutes.

Researchers Heecheol Kim, Yoshiyuki Ohmura and Yasuo Kuniyoshi trained the robot using a “deep imitation learning” process by which they demonstrated the banana-peeling action hundreds of times to produce sufficient data for the robot to learn the actions and replicate them.

In this case, the banana reached its success rate after more than 13 hours of training.

While still undergoing more testing, Kuniyoshi believes his robot training method can teach robots to do different simple “human” tasks.

He hopes the better-trained robots will alleviate Japan’s labour shortage problems, for example at bento lunch box or food processing factories that are highly dependent on human labour.

— Reuters

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