Georgia Tech’s Chicken Deboning Robot – Would You Still Eat It?

With the advents in robotics, and “self-driving” technology, I never through the process of deboning a chicken would be so complicated for a robot.  Apparently, deboning a chicken “efficiently” requires the human touch and can only be performed by a skilled chicken deboner.  Sure, robots can drive a car, perform surgery, fly planes, but when it comes to deboning a chicken, we’re still the superior being – for now.

Gary McMurray from the Georgia Institute of Technology has been working with his team for eight years to develop a robot that can debone a chicken AS/OR better than a human deboner. China has a machine that can debone chickens pretty quickly at a little over 1k chickens per hour, but while it is very fast, it sacrifices the best “cut.” – think quantity over quality – According to McMurray, the problem with robots is that the bots don’t have the hand eye coordination that humans have when it comes to placing the blade into the meat.  A trained factory worker can feel and cut around the edges of the bone to produce the best cut.  The higher the quality of the cut, the more trained workers you need to get that cut, which increases the prices on chicken. Basically these chicken companies have to pull off a balancing act, and hopefully skilled robots can make that act cheaper for everyone across the board.

In June of this year, the team of researchers will get the chance to test out their product on real chickens, if this works, they would have a tide changer between quality v/s quantity in the industry. “This machine, equipped with robotic arms and a surgical blade, is guided by a three-dimensional imaging system that can determine in a split second the size of each chicken and where its skin, meat and bone are,” The ultimate goal is to make the robot as efficient as a human, so the test is going to be dependent on two things – How fast can it be done, and how high is the quality of the cut.

I know what you’re thinking, and I’m the same way. I don’t care about the quality of the cut, when I get it home it’s frozen and then I cut it into smaller pieces when I’m ready to cook. But really, the people that care about the cut are the deboning companies. They want to get as much meat as possible from the chicken before they discard the remains. In this kind of business, the QUALITY of the cut produces a higher QUANTITY of the product.

We may have a whole bunch of people that will lose their jobs, but there will always be companies that hire workers and go off on a marketing scheme selling “Ethical” chicken cuts over “robotic” cut chickens. VIA: WSJ