GRIBBOT – A Robotic Butcher

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Now-a-days the field of robotics is excelling more than anything else.  There is now an industrial robot that can succeed at removing the breast fillet from a chicken.

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Researchers working on the CYCLE project have built a fully functional robot in the lab to automate the process of extracting breast fillets from chickens.  This is a task normally performed by skilled human hands.  The question is, why automate such a thing?  Unlike robots, people’s hands are clumsy, sometimes arthritic, and require bi-weekly paychecks.  Machines are typically more dependable, never get bored of the monotonous and never need a vacation.

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Gribbot, the first butchering robot was developed by SINTEF, an independent research organization based in Norway.  “Our aim is to automate absolute everything we can think of on the food production line” said Ekrem Msimi, a technical cyberneticist with a doctoral degree in machine vision and who is part of the SINTEF team.  Gribbot was named as such because in Nowegian ‘gribb’ is the word for vulture and the robot resembles a vulture’s beak.

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Gribbot is well equipped with a hand for grasping, specially developed fingers, and three dimensional vision.  Its ‘eyes’ or sensors have been borrowed from the 3D camera familiar to all Xbox fans – Microsoft Kinect.  These are all needed because a chicken fillet is a delicate object that requires careful handling.  The robotic hand must not spoil it with marks or other quality defects.  Both the robot’s vision and its grasping are critical factors.

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The robot grasps the chicken carcass, identifies the breast meat, and then scrapes and pulls it off the bone.  The only hindrance the robot might face is the slipperiness of the meat and the chicken’s shiny surface that might make 3D imaging difficult.  This project appears to be engineering at its best and a step forward in the exciting world of modern robotics.