Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/11/07/skittle_sorting_robot/

Who needs flying cars when we can robotically sort Skittles?

And who said that American innovation was on the wane?

By Rik Myslewski

Posted in Hardware, 7th November 2012 01:21 GMT

Video One of life's most vexing chores has finally been roboticized: sorting those delectable candy pellets, Skittles, by color.

If you insist to The Reg that you've never separated a bag of Skittles – or, for that matter, their chocolaty analog, M&M's – into piles segregated by their purple, green, orange, red, and yellow hues, well, we simply won't believe you.

Electrical engineer Brian Egenriether apparently has. And he's also apparently enough of a geek – and we mean that in the most complimentary, celebratory way – to have thought to himself, as every visionary has, "There must be a better way."

And, thanks to him, there is: the Skittles Sorting Machine. As Egenriether explains in the notes to a YouTube video of the SSM in action, "It uses a BASIC Stamp 2 and 3 servos for actuation. An IR LED and phototransistor are used to stop the turnstile in position."

The act of sorting is simplicity itself. A color sensor assigns each individual Skittle an 8-bit RGB value, checks that result against Egenriether's preprogrammed Skittle-spectrum values, and then sends each tasty morsel into the appropriate bowl-aimed transfer tube.

Egenriether fabricated many of the SSM's parts out of epoxy, crafted the base from wood, and used a hummingbird feeder as the all-important Skittle-feeding funnel. "The rest is made from telescope parts and PVC," he says.

One question that will certainly occur in the mind any candy-minded consumer is, of course, "What about M&M's?" Although the color determination scheme would be identical, those delectables unfortunately come in six colors - blue, green, orange, red, yellow, and brown – and the SSM is limited to pentasorting. We can, however, still hope for a M&MSM sometime in the glorious future.

Referencing the Skittle marketeers' "Taste the Rainbow" slogan – inspiration for their rather surreal Experience the Rainbow promo website – the subtley named website Dude!!! I Want That... warns of possible legal action from the candymaker. "Egenriether is destroying Skittles' motherfucking rainbow!," they opine – emphasis theirs.

A legal challenge might come from another direction, they note. "Also, the ACLU doesn't like the sorter's segregational implications." ®