Deboning robot developed at Georgia Tech - Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

Deboning robot developed at Georgia Tech

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Robots are prevalent in our society, doing everything from assembling parts to performing surgery. But they've never been able to accurately debone a chicken.   If done successfully, it's a task that could revolutionize the poultry industry, and engineers at Georgia Tech may have the solution.

Georgia is the largest producer of poultry in the nation. For years, the industry has been obsessed with finding ways to get more meat off of the bone-- a job traditionally done in plants by humans.

"If Georgia were its own country, we'd be the sixth largest producer in the world. So it's a pretty significant business," said Gary McMurray of Georgia Tech.

For the last eight years, McMurray has been working on building a robot that can debone a chicken. With the robot, he hopes to increase the amount of meat that one chicken can yield.

"One percent yield loss represents about $2.5 million per plant, per year. And in the state of Georgia we have, I think, 20 processing plants. So that's a significant amount of lost revenue," said McMurray.

Engineers who have tried to make a deboning robot in the past have tried to make the bird adapt to the process.  But McMurray and his team have created what's called intelligent cutting, which adapts to every bird.

"The first thing we do is start with an image of the bird, and from that we can calculate a unique cutting trajectory for every bird," McMurray explained.

McMurray's robot is also different in another aspect.  It knows when it hits bone. Right now, it's a skill only a human can detect.

The engineering team says they've got a little ways to go before the final prototype is finished. In terms of technology, McMurray says they've come a long way.

McMurray's research is funded by the state of Georgia through Georgia Tech's Agricultural Technology Research Program. The research is not without controversy. Many fear the robots will replace humans.

McMurray says the turnover rate at production plants is high because deboning is such a labor-intensive task.  He says creating the deboning robot will essentially add jobs because it creates a new industry.

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