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Silicone raspberry teaches robots to grasp fruit

Raspberries are not easy to harvest, as their delicate structure leaves them vulnerable to scratches or bruises. That is why they need to be picked by hand instead of machines. However, engineers at EPFL‘s Computational Robot Design & Fabrication (CREATE) lab have set out to tackle this challenge. They created a silicone raspberry to train harvesting robots to grasp fruit without exerting too much pressure. In simple words, they are making a viable alternative to harvesting the fruit by hand.

Josie Hughes, a professor at CREATE: “It’s an exciting dilemma for us as robotics engineers. The raspberry harvesting season is so short, and the fruit is so valuable that wasting them simply isn’t an option. What’s more, the cost and logistical challenges of testing different options out in the field are prohibitive. That’s why we decided to run our tests in the lab and develop a replica raspberry for training harvesting robots.”

To train harvesting robots in the task of picking the fruit, the CREATE engineers designed and built a silicone raspberry that can teach the robot how much pressure is being applied while the fruit is still attached to the receptacle and after it’s been released. The properties of the silicon raspberry can be adjusted to resemble the fruit’s resistance. Based on that, the robot exerts the necessary picking force.


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