Manoj Karkee, an assistant professor with the Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems at Washington State University, is conducting research where robots and humans work side by side, according to a news release.
When apples are clustered or hidden by leaves, robots require complex algorithms to calculate how to identify them.
Humans, on the other hand, can quickly identify the fruit.
When the two work together in a mobile system, the fruit is identified in real time faster than by human or machine alone.
Karkee plans to develop specialized robotic methods to harvest fruit, taking into account the delicate nature of fruit and the dynamics of picking fruit by hand.
To develop a prototype, Karkee and his group will first determine how best to detach fruit from the tree.
They'll also study growth patterns of different apple varieties and record and analyze videos of hand motions.
The end result will be a mechanical hand that can remove the fruit without damaging it.
The project is being funded in part through the National Robotics Initiative.