Holy Grail of Robots: One to Debone a Chicken
Apparently, it's harder to design than it seems
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 2, 2012 3:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – It would be the "Holy Grail" of robots, a real "game-changer," experts say: a robot that can … debone a chicken?! Yes, though robots can already fly planes, locate bombs, and help with surgeries, apparently years of technological advances have still failed to produce a robot that can replace the human workers who remove the breast meat from chickens. It may seem like a simple task, but it's harder for a robot than a human to make decisions about exactly where and how deep to cut, since no two chickens are exactly alike, the Wall Street Journal explains. Now, after eight years of work, Gary McMurray and his team of Georgia Institute of Technology robot builders are finally ready to test a chicken-deboning prototype.

If the robot—which uses a 3D imaging system to quickly determine how to cut each individual chicken—works, the poultry industry could save millions in labor costs and collect a lot more meat. But restaurants are worried the resulting meat could contain bits of bone, poultry workers are afraid they'll lose their jobs, and makers of deboning machines—which aren’t as advanced, because they can only debone chickens of a specific dimension—see their turf being invaded. "We did not understand the science of cutting," says McMurray. So until all the kinks get worked out, "this is when you appreciate what a human can do."