Robot HAMDAS-R has an unusual skill with a blade, particularly when matched against irregularly shaped pieces of meat. This food-processing robot cuts right to the bone. HAMDAS-R won top prize in the Small Business and Venture category at the Fourth Robot Awards held at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Technology.
(HAMDAS-R video from Mayekawa Electric)
"Until now, ham-boning has required the talents of skilled workers, due to the variations in meat form and bone size.
"HAMDAS-R has made it possible to automate the processing of irregularly shaped, soft foods like meat. Until now the use of robots for food processing hasn't progressed very much and its hard to mechanize tasks that rely on human hands.
"Thinking about irregularly shaped, soft items, most kinds of food come into this category, including fish and vegetables. We'd like to build up our know-how regarding how to automate their processing, so we can construct a general-purpose system for handling irregularly shaped, soft items."
Obviously, there's no reason to panic that robots are gaining skill with knives and deboning irregularly shaped pieces of meat. However, I can't help but think of examples like the robotic systems that protected the city of Lemnos in The Man in the Maze, a 1969 novel by Robert Silverberg. The city was surrounded by traps that were run by the city itself. At first visitors tried to find a way through with probes:
At the begining of the fourth minute the probe skirted bright rillwork like interlocking teeth, and sidestepped an umbrella-shaped piledriver that descended with crushing force. Eighty seconds later it stepped around a tiltblock that opened into a yawning abyss, deftly eluded a quintet of tetrahedral blades that sheared upward out of the pavement...
Update: See also the robotic abattoir from Anne McCafffrey's 1996 novel Freedom's Landing (thanks, Ashley!). End update.