The Week’s Best Robot Videos: Finally, a Machine To Tend Your Vineyard

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Sept. 28 2012 11:00 AM

The Week’s Best Robot Videos: Finally, a Machine To Tend Your Vineyard

The Wall-Ye robot at work in a vineyard
The Wall-Ye robot at work in a vineyard

Still from YouTube.

Every Friday, Future Tense rounds up the best robot videos of the week. Seen a great robot video? Tweet it to @FutureTenseNow, or email us. 

This week, robots take over the highways, lend a hand on French vineyards, and try to keep your plants from dying.


The Wino Bot
Between all the wine tastings and sprawling vistas, the vineyard life must be difficult—so it’s about time robots stepped in to help. Wall-Ye is a prototype robot designed to provide individual care to each vine. As it tours a vineyard, it can build a map, inspect grapes, and prune vines, and Wall-Ye’s inventor Christophe Millot hopes the robot can someday help harvest grapes as well. Over at IEEE Spectrum, Evan Ackerman lists plenty of reasons to be skeptical of this bot’s true utility, but it’s still fun to imagine wine snobs turning their noses at the thought of a robo-Merlot.

The Sun Spot Bot
If your thumbs, like mine, are not even a little green, a little robot could go a long way. This rover, called the Plant Host Drone, can carry your plants around the house until they are comfortably situated in the sun. Belgian sculptor Stephen Verstraete built the drone with tank treads for mobility and sensors that seek out the highest intensity light in the area. If you’re looking for a project this weekend, Verstraete posted a brief how-to guide on Instructables. Bonus points go to anyone who builds a robotic counterpart that can automatically water the plants as well.

The Road Train
Self-driving cars became legal in California this week, but we’re still nowhere near being able to get behind the wheel and read the paper on the way into work.  Perhaps a happy medium is the SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project sponsored by the European Union. The cars in this video form a “road train,” led by a professional driver in a large truck. Each car communicates with the others to determine safe speeds and distances, and from that point on, the drivers are free to do as they wish. Cars can enter and leave the platoon at any point, and switching lanes is no problem (provided other drivers will let five cars merge in front of them). The road trains could save drivers 10 to 20 percent in gas, according to IEEE Spectrum, though they move relatively slowly. Volvo and its partners wrapped up the SARTRE project with this demonstration, but expect to see more great things from this technology in the future.

Via Reuters.

The Mapper Bot
With Google mapping the world beneath the sea and Apple mapping …  well, something, you might be wondering when you can embark on your own cartography. Now developers at MIT have taken an automated map-making system—commonly used to help robots get a layout of the world around them—and created a version that humans can wear on their chests. As a user walks around, various sensors on the device detect walls and obstacles to automatically draft a layout of the surroundings, and information can be transmitted immediately to another location. This wearable mapping system could be especially helpful for indoor situations like emergency rescues or military operations, when information is needed fast—and maybe it could even save you $80,000 on those cartography lessons.

Via NBC News.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

iOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Sept. 17 2014 12:02 PM Here It Is: The Flimsiest Campaign Attack Ad of 2014, Which Won’t Stop Running
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 17 2014 1:59 PM Ask a Homo: Secret Ally Codes 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 1:26 PM Hey CBS, Rihanna Is Exactly Who I Want to See on My TV Before NFL Games
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 1:01 PM A Rare, Very Unusual Interview With Michael Jackson, Animated
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.