I also work designing processor intensive software, so I'm aware of the limitations of computers. And I've done weeding on farms - distinguishing Italian ryegrass from perennial ryegrass for example. That's why this whole robot idea excites me. Sure it won't happen straight away, but oneday I hope nobody will have to do such sub-human work.
The whole farming thing gave me plenty of motivation to stay in school. There is a lot of boring, hard and repetitive jobs on a farm, and I'm happy to be away from that life (minus the farm gals, who are much more "earthly" than their city kin...).
I too would like to see a lot of this on farms, if anything, to increase the margins of my family who still work farms. It is not a profitable business, and its frustrating to see them work as hard as they do, for as little as they get.
Oh that's all you're talking about? That's nothing compared to the cost of building the mechanical parts without mass production.
But that cost does come down with mass production; the kinds of computing power needed though is currently expensive and will likely remain that way for years to come.
As I said, we do the same kinds of morphological processing here at work that would be needed to ID weeds verses crops. We make a point of regularity upgrading our hardware (its our single greatest material expense, after service contracts), but even with the most modern 8-core processors we're still needing to network several together to get the kind of processing speeds we need to do this stuff in a practical time-frame (and one not even close to real-time).
One day that kind of power will probably fit into my watch, but not anytime soon.
A GPS receiver is effectively free. I have a feeling you're trying to make the software problem sound expensive just because it's complicated.
Quite the opposite - the software is easy, as morphological analysis is pretty old-school stuff these days. Like I said in my last post, give me a bit of time and I could probably write it. The issue is the kinds of computing power it'll take to implement that type of analysis, at a speed sufficiently fast to be practical, and at a cost which is competitive with existing options. If the robot can only process a few plants an hour, it'll be useless.
In weeding I think there are 2 separate applications which you're confusing. One is to replace selective weedkillers that you spray over everything. The other is to replace manual weeding. I don't know what this is like elsewhere but when I was doing it, I was usually picking out a single unwanted variety from a field of one or two OK ones.
I'm thinking you may be a bit older than I
Between GM crops and seed banks, farmers (at least up here) don't do a lot of selection on their crops. Even as a kid, which was a fair time ago (pre-GM, anyways), most farmers were switching to buying seed every year in order to avoid having to pay for the later kind of weeding you mention.
Choosing between 2 or 3 possibilities is surely much cheaper/faster than comparing to a database of thousands.
Not really. Its the actual morphological analysis which is computing-intensive. Once you calculate the morphological parameters, IDing the object takes milliseconds using fairly standardized cluster analysis routines (K-mean, or DBSCAN are the norm).
This is maybe beyond the range of this discussion, but in my own work I am trying to develop methods to automate the analysis of drugs and genetic mutations on certain cell functions that can be tracked with fluorescent tracers. The process is basically a 3-step one, separate the cell from the background, analyze the morphology of the cell and fluorescent tracers, and finally compare that morphological information to a huge database (currently ~50,000 cells strong, containing information on the effects of ~500 drugs/mutations).
The first and last step of this process takes less than a second each. The middle part takes anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes per cell
. You can imagine, if a robot needed 10-15 seconds per plant to tell if it were a weed or not, the weeds would probably grow back faster than the robot would be able to remove them.