Irobot, the company that has produced the Roomba vacuum cleaner that scoots around on the floor by itself have come up for an outside version. Now there is a Roomba for outdoor that will mow your lawn!
iRobot has spent a long time getting to this point. Unlike its indoor cousin, the lawn cutting robot had a lot of design issues over the years. The big one is keeping track of the machine so it doesn’t disappear down the road mowing other people’s lawns or go off into the woods somewhere. What works for the indoor robot doesn’t really work with an outdoor version that would get a lot of interference from things like trees and dirt. Satellites in space, like those that control GPS, wouldn’t work very well either.
They had thought they had found the answer in “ultra-wide bandwitch” radio signals. Beacons would be set up around your lawn to keep track of the lawn munching robot. Add that to the locating technology that iRobot always had and they may have found the answer.
Except it had one more problem. Astronomers complained that the radio signals could interfere with their work in interstellar science and cause a new set of problems. Harvey Liszt of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory said: “there is already a competitive market for robotic lawn mowers using wire loops, which has somehow failed to stanch the stream of ghastly accidents and spilt gasoline that iRobot associates with the mundane practice of lawn-mowing.”
But the idea of using radio signals for Robot lawnmowers was approved by the FCC anyway. The mowers will be tried out in Germany where the lawns tend to be smaller and on flatter land. It is hoped that a limited test run in the United States will happen later this year and the IRobot lawn mowers will be available in 2020. At least, that is the plan if all goes well.
In their current form, the lawn mowers are smaller than your typical push mower and run around your lawn at a bit of a slower pace. It runs on an electric engine and does the job with two lawn munching blades to get grass on an even cut. The early testing in the United States will also help to make sure it doesn’t gobble up your flower bed.
The technology is more established in Europe and Germany specifically. While iRobot is testing out the American market, Germany already has mowers from Husqvarna, Bosch, and other companies along with smaller and more rectangular lawns to help make the self-driving lawn mowers work. American tends to have much bigger and more topographically diverse lawns that makes such things more difficult to develop. The cost of such an idea also holds back from many people getting into the market of having a small robot to mow your lawns for you.
It is a relatively new technology and would have to be adapted for the American market. It may take a little while for all the kinks to be worked out before it really catches on and becomes commercially viable in the United States. Much like other gadgets in the past, it may take on different forms and iRobot specifically will have to go through multiple ideas before this becomes a regular part of people’s lives.
It may take a while, but I’m sure all the kinks in the technology will be worked out and you never know, we may be seeing the end of the traditional push mower.
And I think Isaac Asimov would get a kick out of this.