Ah, booze. The only thing it's (generally) missing is the sweet and vaguely servo-y taste of robotics. A little robot named Wall-Ye is trying to get involved in the process from the ground up by helping out in vineyards in France, meaning that we'll get to add "robotolicious" to the official list of wine descriptors.
Here's some video of Wall-Ye in action:
I don't think any robot without tank treads and a binocular head really deserves to be named after Wall-E (who you can still vote for to be inducted into the RHoF, by the way), but Wall-Ye is sort of charming I guess. It's got two arms and six cameras, weighs 20 kilos, and can reportedly autonomously prune 600 vines per day, among other things, according to an AFP report:
Wall-Ye draws on tracking technology, artificial intelligence and mapping to move from vine to vine, recognise plant features, capture and record data, memorise each vine, synchronise six cameras and guide its arms to wield tools.
Yours for just $32,000.
Now, I don't want to be a Negative Nancy about this, and I do think that Wall-Ye would be great for monitoring vines, but I'm skeptical about the "prunes 600 vines per day" claim. In fact, I'm skeptical about the pruning period. To prune a vine, you first need a robot that can reach the vine (many if not most that I've seen are trellised fairly high up), and second, you need a fairly complex vision system to be able to map the vines in 3D with sufficient accuracy and precision to properly cut them. For reference, here's a vine pruning robot prototype from California-based Vision Robotics in operation:
As you can see, it's big (three meters tall), it's got long arms, it's got a total of eight high resolution cameras focused on the vines, and it generates a 3D model and then decides where to cut. I just don't see Wall-Ye being able to do anything like this at all. But again, Wall-Ye doesn't have to be a pruning robot, it would be quite valuable as a mobile monitoring system with the capability to measure temperature, moisture levels, soil PH, and (if you wanted to get fancy about it), even vigor levels and vine health with a hyperspectral sensor using technology that's being pioneered by a certain company that I may have worked for at one point. You know, just a helpful suggestion.
Evan Ackerman is the senior writer for IEEE Spectrum’s award-winning robotics blog, Automaton. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and emerging technology, covering conferences and events on every single continent except Africa, Antarctica, Australia, and South America (although he remains optimistic). In addition to Spectrum, Evan’s work has appeared in a variety of other online publications including Gizmodo and Slate, and you may have heard him on NPR’s Science Friday or the BBC World Service if you were listening at just the right time. Evan has an undergraduate degree in Martian geology, which he almost never gets to use, and still wants to be an astronaut when he grows up. In his spare time, he enjoys scuba diving, rehabilitating injured raptors, and playing bagpipes excellently.