Stay on target Another day, another step toward the robot revolution.Harvest CROO Robotics recently demonstrated an automated strawberry-picking machine, hell bent on replacing people in the fields.As described by NPR reporter Dan Charles, the computerized robotic optimized obtainer (CROO) is big as a bus, and wide enough to “straddle a dozen rows of strawberries at once.”Driven by autonomous technology, the contraption relies on high-definition cameras to detect berries, and a lineup of robotic claws to pick them.“Nobody’s telling it what to do,” Paul Bissett, chief operating officer at Harvest CROO Robotics, told the network. “It’s remembering its path down the row. It’s remembering where all these plants are.”A super-accurate GPS ensures the machine doesn’t trample the crops; when it reaches a vine, lights flash and cameras spin as computers capture stereo images of the strawberries.For all its pomp and circumstance, the vehicle doesn’t collect many fruits. But that is by design, according to Bissett, who claims that for their demonstration, the machine was programmed to grab just one berry per plant.Operating at normal conditions, the robots can find and pick more than 50 percent of the ripe berries—less than the 60 to 90 percent achieved by a typical work crew.The strawberry-picking robot awaits its turn (via Dan Charles/NPR)“You kind of learn, when you get into this—it’s really hard to match what humans can do,” Harvest CROO Robotics co-founder Bob Pitzer admitted.A former development engineer for Intel, Pitzer reasons that “it was a lot easier to make semiconductor chips” than program strawberry-picking bots.As with most industrial robots, though, there are advantages: The apparatus can work through the night (when berries are cooler and less fragile, NPR said) and pick up to eight acres in a day.Still in the prototype phase, the harvester is forecast to fill fields within two years: Good news for farmers, bad news for farm workers. The Harvest CROO Robotics website expects each machine to replace at least 30 pickers.“It could happen. Put a man on the moon, didn’t we?” harvester Jose Santos told NPR, oddly optimistic about robots taking over his job.The crew leader is convinced that picking strawberries will always require human intervention. After all, who’s going to fix the vehicles when they break down? Besides, a little automated help never hurt anyone.“You could afford to give people a day off, you know,” Santos said. “Afternoons off, holidays off. If you have machines behind you.”In September, R&D company Octinion unveiled a next-generation strawberry-picking robot, able to cull one piece of fruit every three seconds. Evan Rachel Wood Just As Disturbed by Humanoid Sophia As Everyone ElseMIT’s Thread-Like Robot Slides Through Blood Vessels In the Brain Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.