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Robotics Technology

Coming Soon — Cyborg Farmers 172

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the all-your-veggies-are-belong-to-us dept.
palegray.net writes Robots.net covers an article about robotic exoskeletons for Japanese farmers. These exoskeletons would provide increased strength and support for manual labor intensive tasks. More information can also be found at robots-dreams.com. 'The robotic suit relies on ultrasonic motors along with various sensors and wireless networking gear. [...] The mass-produced version of the suit is expected to weigh in at 8 kilograms and cost about 200,000 yen.'"
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Coming Soon — Cyborg Farmers

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  • 200,000 Yen =~ $1800. Where is my exoskeleton. I would imagine something like the exoskeleton suit from the Aliens series would be quite useful.
    • It would also weigh a little more than 8 kilos. I'd prefer a normal body sized exo-skeleton to a 20 foot mecha style exo-skeleton for everyday usage ;)
    • In other major currencies 200 000 yen is approximately

      950 UK Pounds
      1250 Euros
      44850 Rubles
      72300 Rupees
      13400 Yuan
      20150 Mexican Pesos

      HAL.
  • by The_mad_linguist (1019680) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:09PM (#22037084)
    I thought the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture wasn't in charge of Gundam.
  • Are they just motors we can't hear? Or was the article written by a science illiterate who includes words that he thinks sound scientific?
  • and sometimes speak Bocce...
  • Nifty advances (Score:3, Informative)

    by jbeaupre (752124) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:11PM (#22037114)
    Not the first time Japanese agriculture spins out some interesting stuff. Check out their UAV helicopters: http://www.gizmag.com/go/2440/ [gizmag.com].
  • by r_jensen11 (598210) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:11PM (#22037118)
    Something about this sounds fishy.... I find it hard to believe that it would cost less than $2,000 to turn in to RoboCop.
    • Fair enough, you sit there in your unbelief.. wheeeee!! *jumps onto the top of the empire state building*
    • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:20PM (#22037228)

      I find it hard to believe that it would cost less than $2,000 to turn in to RoboCop
      You're leaving out the cost of weapons.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      I find it hard to believe that it would cost less than $2,000 to turn in to RoboCop.

      I fond it hard to believe that an exoskeleton would cost as much as a car. The Indians are putting a CAR out for about that price.

      I want one like in The Matrix. Those exoskeletons would cost a bit more than $2k I think!
    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      Batteries Not Included.

      Click here to add a Mr Fusion [gizmodo.com] to your order.

    • by Sandbags (964742) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:53PM (#22037698) Journal
      Well, it's not really a robotic suit, it's a robotic "assist" suit. It doesn't do anything by itself, it's just a few servos with some quality sensors attached and calibtrated to the wearers movement. It helps prevent fatigue by helping the farmer balance, stand and squat, and remain bent over for long periods of time.

      the software behind it isn't anything radical, and since then motors don't apply force, just resistance, most of the work is done with very little power. (power is needed to turn on and off the motor, but not to actually move limbs, so it;s kind of like assisted breaking, or power steering, but for the body.)

      It's a lot more simple than people think to make it out. Many of the componenets are slight upgrades to common hobby gear... the sensors are where the real magic is, allowing the suit to move fluidly with the wearer and sense when to support and when to assist. Other than that, it's not more than a fancy mechanical brace. $2000 USD is completely beievable.

      Also, misprint in the article states 8KG. It's 18KG (about 40 lbs).
    • Something about this sounds fishy.... I find it hard to believe that it would cost less than $2,000 to turn in to RoboCop.
      Turning into Robocop would cost you an arm and a leg...a pair of both, actually.
    • by Necreia (954727)
      Don't you mean RoboCrop?
  • these robotic suits are used to record all the data necessary to train robots to do the same work?
    • by zentinal (602572)
      If we run short of migrant workers as a side effect of immigration reform, imagine flocks / herds of robotic weeders / pickers roaming the fields. Heck, you could even have pest eating robots [newscientist.com].
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      You train organisms. You program robots. Quite a difference, even if you can program some robots "by example".

      There's way too much Anthropomorphism [wikipedia.org] in robotics IMO, especially Japanese robotics.
      • by zappepcs (820751)
        Well said, I agree with you. My bad
      • by Wildclaw (15718)

        Actually, the grandparent is correct in using the word training. If you have a self learning algorithm, you program it into a computer. After that is done you train it for a specific task by feeding it data.

        Programming is also often used when talking about living organisms. Specifically when dealing with brainwashing and conditioned responses. The main difference in meaning seems to be that training is used when the result is more fluid, while programming is more strict and focused. When they can be i

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Yeah, don't anthropomorphize robots. They hate that.
  • by show me altoids (1183399) * on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:13PM (#22037148)
    you Bitch!!
  • This is the worst I've misread a summary yet... And oddly, probably the most accurate misread also.

    I read it: "The mass-produced version of the weapon is expected"

    Scary.
    • by Mantaar (1139339)
      I'll wait for them things to get produced on a larger scale. I wonder when the first incident will be reported where a drunken farmer abuses his newly-grown exo-super powers...

      Would be fun to have a fight in those things, too, I think. Just one blow that's not blocked properly and you're dead meat, ready for consumption.
  • I hope... (Score:5, Funny)

    by tgd (2822) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:31PM (#22037356)
    I hope I wasn't really the ONLY one whose first thought was "well that pretty much decides the whole illegal immigrant discussion once the migrant workers get cybernetic exoskeletons"...

    I, for one, welcome our cybernetic illegal immigrant overlords.

    um... I mean... I, para uno, dan la bienvenida a nuestros overlords inmigrantes ilegales cibernéticos.

    (thanks babelfish)
  • by jesdynf (42915) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:32PM (#22037366) Homepage
    Japanese farmers driving exoskeletons?

    Don't I seem to recall something else Japanese farmers are famous for?

    Oh, that's right. Ninjas.

    Nothing but awesome can come from this.
  • 8kg is ridulously light for an exoskeleton that can increase the strength of its wearer significantly. The power source alone would have to be much heavier (its designed to work outdoors, so no wired power). For comparison, the Apollo space suits weighed about 80kg.



    Or it could be an indication this is BS...

    • The Apollo spacesuits were designed over forty years ago for a completely different purpose. Unless something's terribly different about Japanese farming methods, I don't think that they need to carry around an air supply with them nor do they need to be protected from the vacuum of space.
    • 8kg is ridulously light for an exoskeleton that can increase the strength of its wearer significantly. The power source alone would have to be much heavier (its designed to work outdoors, so no wired power). For comparison, the Apollo space suits weighed about 80kg.

      If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we shoot people for Apollo-related non-sequiturs?


      Don't shoot yourself, suicide is still illegal.
      • by damburger (981828)
        It isn't a non sequitur; An exoskeleton and a space suit actually have some similarities.
        • by sm62704 (957197)
          So does my shirt. If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we make a shirt that fits?
    • A crowbar can't be more than a kilo or two, and look how the power of leverage works for it.

      Bonus: it can even be used to ward off alien invaders from another dimension, or smash crates.
    • by pragma_x (644215)
      There's a few things to consdier. For starters, the article is a form of product PR so there's probably some details left out here.

      My guess is that they're estimating based on a carbon-composite frame (cheap and light), soon-to-be-developed lightweight motors and no batteries. Manufacturers do this crap all the time, especially in the auto industry. It seems that MPG estimates always move after those darn EPA regulations are taken into consideration.

      As far as the batteries go, you could have an autonomou
      • by damburger (981828)
        I'm not sure if its that common, and it doesn't bode well for such an adventurous technology. Remember the Ford Nucleon - ford designed a nuclear powered car based on certain promising developments in lightweight shielding materials and miniaturised reactors that never actually materialised. I can see how you might be able to get away with it when you are tweaking a well understood design (a standard, petrol driven car) but surely for something completely new you've got to be a bit more honest about the spe
    • by xerxesVII (707232)
      Misprint, indeed. TFA says 18 kg. It also says 8 motors. Perhaps that's where palegrey.net made the mistake.
  • didn't they call it "HAL" or was that another robot assistant? What do you think you're doing Dave?
  • by writerjosh (862522) * on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:39PM (#22037468) Homepage
    While this suit is totally cool, I think bigger, mass-production robots like this rice-planting robot [web-japan.org] are far more practical. The robot suit is indeed a technological breakthrough, but I think robots that can help more than one person at a time are far more valuable. Or, check out these weed-killers [primidi.com].
  • by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:39PM (#22037482) Homepage
    Maybe it's just me, but most robots I've seen aren't that strong. Most can be outdone pretty easily by a human the is in good shape. There are some strong robots, but they are extremely large, and not the kind that could be worked into a suit that would be worn by a human. Also, what advantage does this offer over typical farm machinery that isn't in a human exoskeleton form factor?
  • ER/EI (Score:2, Interesting)

    So, how much energy does a cyber farm hand embody in its mining, construction, operation and maintenance, as opposed to a human and how many calories of food can it generate?

    Given the average farm hand needs 2000 calories to maintain homeostasis and at least that much for accoutrement (clothing, etc.), the machine has to run on less than 4000 calories a day of energy, including its energy investment as an object.

    I'm not saying one way or the other, but the analysis needs to be made before we can welcome

    • by mdielmann (514750)

      So, how much energy does a cyber farm hand embody in its mining, construction, operation and maintenance, as opposed to a human and how many calories of food can it generate?

      Well, this can't be too hard. Rather than calories, let's use something that we already do universal conversions between (time, calories, effort, etc.). We'll call it money. Apparently, $2000 is enough to cover the cost of extracting, refining, and forming the exoskeleton, setting up the framework for powering it, building the sensors that help control it, and designing the software to help control it. This assumes that number isn't subsidised one way or another. (In other words, no one really needs to

      • economics is of no value in a decreasing situation.

        Example: let's say you have a car that gets 30 mpg. You are out in the desert and have 1 gallon of gas. The next gas station is 100 miles away. All The Money In The World isn't going to buy you a gallon of gas when you run out. You're going to have to push the car. If you push it 3 miles a day, you might get there in a month. So, now you know the Energy Value of one gallon of gas: one month of hard labour pushing a car 100 miles.

        Another example: carting

  • by bograt (943491) on Monday January 14, 2008 @02:49PM (#22037604)
    I watched a movie about this recently. "RoboCrop", I think it was called.
  • This is a sure sign things are getting bad in Japan. Back in the day farmers would just have a bunch of children and they'd help out on the farm. So now instead of rutting their wives and getting some help the old fashioned way Farmers have to turn to cyborg technology.

    It's all well and good for the current generation but who'll tend the fields when the Cyborg's dead and buried?
  • This is just what we need. A cheap exo-skeleton that anyone can buy and wear all the time. Once it becomes popular people will think they are the six million dollar man, lifting things over their heads.

    Of course over the next couple of hundred years we will evolve into nothing more than a brain and some nerve endings that will activate the exo-skeleton's. Wonder when they will start making them look like Daleks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalek [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by pragma_x (644215)

      Wonder when they will start making them look like Daleks.
      Good point. With handicap ramps now the norm in building construction, they'll be quite practical too.

      ...

      Wanted: apartment in multi-story building with no elevator. Close proximity to gun store preferred.
      • Good point. With handicap ramps now the norm in building construction, they'll be quite practical too. Wanted: apartment in multi-story building with no elevator. Close proximity to gun store preferred.

        Everyone knows Daleks have this ridiculous useless sink plunger on the front. Dalek rayguns only point forward so you're safe if you keep behind them because they can't turn fast. And above all, Daleks can't climb the stairs.

        Yeah. [mininova.org] Everyone knows that.

        (Some of them _prefer_ not to climb the stairs, find

  • by hotwatermusic (911310) on Monday January 14, 2008 @03:28PM (#22038658)
    Must make sure my Old Glory Insurance is current.
  • much needed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ILongForDarkness (1134931) on Monday January 14, 2008 @04:38PM (#22039888)
    I'm not an expert in the region and growing of asian produce, however, when I was in Japan visiting a friend I was amazed at how low tech the farming is there something ca 1920 US. They were planting rice by hand. We were biking through rural areas and I noticed a lot of older people that were bent over at a near 90% angle on the side walks. I asked my friend what was wrong with them, and he said they were farmers who's backs have become deformed from bending over all the time.

    The reason for this stupidity according to my friend: Japan (as admittedly a lot of countries do) has protectionist policies in place forcing rice and other crops to have to be produced in Japan. The cost of japanese rice versus the average is 7 times, but they have to produce it. Apparently it is cheaper to ruin the backs of people in a first world country then to risk not having control of your food supply - because you buy it from the close third world countries - in the advent of a war. Admittedly if I was like Japan and had crazies for neighbours (North Korea/China, government not the people) whom I recently pissed off by invading I might be worried about war preparedness as well.

  • Rutabagas coming in nicely... BOOYAH!
  • Is where is it going to be ABLE to work at? According to my guesstimates, the weight per square inch that will be applied with even 50% of the nominal working load would be roughly triple the amount a 4 wheel cart. We're talking two footpads, roughly 250% larger than the human foot. You know that we exert a lot of pounds/square inch on our feet so that is why they are so articulate. The feet on this monster would probably be semi flexible pads that would not be as flexible, therefore be rougher than hell on
  • If you were going to go this far for manual labor, why not take it a step further and motion capture it for use with an AI driven control system later on. As long as the system knows the proper motions and when/where to apply them, the exoskeleton should be able to do the work itself as a playable macro.
  • So, will this be a tool that you can buy in the upcoming Wii version of Harvest Moon [wikipedia.org]? So that your lazy little guy will stop pooping out after roughly 2 minutes of labor?
  • There are less young people going into farming these days. These suits will be good for aging farmers as well as maybe making it less backbreaking or more interesting to young people I'd think too.

    Of course the real robotic farmer that can plant rice by himself? I dunno, the Emperor does that himself you know, can the robot really plant delicious rice? Rice has a spiritual place in Japanese religion too.

    But my guess is this would be an excellent way to really test robots in the field especially when you ar

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