Robots are commonly found on factory floors performing simple tasks or delivering food to restaurant patrons in Japan, but researchers have now revealed a robot capable of performing the delicate task of peeling a banana without squashing the fruit inside. While the dual-armed machine only succeeds 57% of the time, banana peeling foreshadows a future in which machines perform more subtle tasks than moving metal parts or delivering coffee. According to a video posted by researchers at the University of Tokyo, the robot can grab and peel a banana with both hands in around three minutes.
Researchers Heecheol Kim, Yoshiyuki Ohmura, and Yasuo Kuniyoshi trained the robot using a “deep imitation learning” process in which they demonstrated the banana-peeling action hundreds of times to generate enough data for the robot to learn and replicate the actions.
In this case, the banana’s success rate was achieved after more than 13 hours of training.
While more testing is needed, Kuniyoshi believes his robot training method can teach robots to perform a variety of simple “human” tasks.
He hopes that better-trained robots will help to alleviate Japan’s labour shortage problems, such as in bento lunch box or food processing factories that rely heavily on human labour.