Tagalong robots follow…and learn

Follower robots have been tapped for senseless pursuits like carrying a single bottle of water, but robots can also carry tools in a warehouse or just-picked fruit from an orchard to a packing station. Artificially intelligent machines trained to follow people or other machines can transform how we think about everyday objects, like carry-on luggage or a set of golf clubs. Now the makers of follower robots want to coordinate movement around the modern workplace.

To train a Burro robot, you simply press a Follow button and start walking; at the end of the path, you press the button again. Using up to 20 cameras, computer vision, and GPS, Burro follows you and memorizes the route. It can then ferry goods unassisted and communicate the path to other Burro robots.

A Burro weighs up to 500 pounds and can carry as much as 1,000 pounds. Table grape growers are using Burros to ferry fruit from laborers in vineyards to people packing the goods in clamshells before loading them onto trucks for transport to grocery stores…

Burro CEO Charlie Andersen says the robots have logged nearly 50,000 hours in the past five years in blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, and grape fields, as well as at plant nurseries.

Questions and answers programmed into one robot communicate instantly to the whole workforce. Informing decisions, guidance and distribution skills. They don’t need a cigarette break, either.

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