Ocado tests robotic hand to handle fruit and veg

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

The robotic hand is being trialled by Ocado
The robotic hand is being trialled by Ocado

Related tags: Finger, Robot, Hand

Online retailer Ocado is trialling a soft robotic hand, which can handle fruit and vegetables without damaging them.

The RBO Hand 2 could be used in the retailer’s automated warehouses to help choose produce for customer orders.

It uses air pressure to control the movement of the robotic fingers, allowing the hand to delicately mould to the shape of the item it is picking up.

The hand was developed as part of a five-year, EU-funded collaboration between Ocado, five European universities and Disney.

Ocado Technology communications manager Alexandru Voica said the demonstration device was an early prototype.

‘Mimic the human hand’

“People have tried suction cups, robot hands with three fingers. What we are trying to do is to actually mimic the human hand,”​ he added.

“What we are trying to do is combine computer vision – being able to recognise products by looking at them – with the control aspect, which is the gripping aspect.”

While the hand is the only part of the robot being demonstrated, it is hoped it will ultimately be able to distinguish fruit ripeness through machine learning.

It would also be used to pick different items that require different levels of handling and care, such as wine bottles.

Watch a demonstration of the hand in the video below.

Potential to be automated

Meanwhile, about 55% of manufacturing jobs in the UK had the potential to be automated, according to a report from the McKinsey Global Institute, last week.

But automation would take years to affect manufacturers, said the authors of the report.

“Our scenarios suggest that half of today’s work activities could be automated by 2055, but this could happen up to 20 years earlier or later – depending on various factors – in addition to other economic conditions,”​ said McKinsey.

EEF, the manufacturer’s organisation, warned that more than half of British food and drink manufacturers risked missing out on the Fourth Industrial Revolution – known as 4IR.

Related topics: Supply Chain, Fresh produce

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