After we got Robocop on film, are we now getting real-life autonomous robo-cowboys?
From ACFR, Australian Centre for Field Robotics, comes SwagBot - a 'cowboy' robot that is capable of herding cattle like a professional, working on the farm and making its way through rough terrain - all on its own! Developers - who have been researching and developing autonomous technology and intelligent software for the last decade - say that this robot "could very soon be monitoring cattle in remote farms in the Australian outback."
Why do Australians need a robot like that? Australia is a vast country, and managing sheep and cattle often takes you to very remote places. Some are also very difficult to access. If technology allows it, why not let the robots work the farms?
Last week, the robot sucessfully passed the field test, navigating its way around the demanding landscape like a real cowboy. Researchers say that future trials will focus on "applying research toward autonomous farm activities including monitoring and interacting with plants and animals" - the robot will be, for example, taught to distinguish healthy livestock from sick (or injured) animals, which is an important step forward from the robot's previous ability to identify sick crops. Future trials will also see the robot equipped with temperature and motion sensors.
Way to go, science!