Who needs flying cars when we can robotically sort Skittles?
And who said that American innovation was on the wane?
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." ®