Honda has entered the home robotics market with Miimo, a robotic lawn mower that communicates electronically with a perimeter wire to stay within the confines of a lawn or patch of grass. It cuts continuously with a range of settings and blade heights according to user preference. (Source: Honda)
As a skeptic/contrarian/curmudgeon/naysayer/etc, I can see a bunch of dark edges. Like if you have a team of these, you might want to invest in some security to keep your $3000 toys from running off with the neighbor kids! That said (and a lot of stuff unsaid), I have to admit that this little product delights me. Probably not good for my hilly lawn. Probably only good for golf greens, etc... I'd still love to see one in action. :-) And as we creep toward the enlightened Buck Rogers future (where they promised us jet packs!), it's cool, expensive, slightly-useful toys like this one that will pave the way. Sure it's based on the Roomba, and sure they'll probably have a lawsuit or two to deal with. But it's PLENTY COOL. Made me think out of the box a little. What about a Wallba, a robot that creeps over your walls and gradually paints them, eliminating ANOTHER chore that nobody likes doing but everybody wants done!
Conceptually, of course, it's an attractive notion.... pragmatically, however, I doubt that I can endorse it. I would have serious concerns, regardless of sophistication of object detection logic, related to leaving an unattended object with whirling blades roving unsupervised in my yard. I doubt that my homeowners insurance agent would approve either. (I would certainly have to bring the dog inside!) Beyond the issues of liability, I seriously doubt that any algorithm (at least none that I can imagine - been an embedded programmer for 30 years...) would successfully navigate and attend to the nuances of yard-flush flower beds, irregularly shaped swimming pool aprons, etc.
I suspect I would spend a lot of time mopping up all of the missed areas and explaining to my wife where the tulips have gone!
I saw this article about the Miimo, and it says the price point is about $2600.00. With a price like that, it will be a while before we see neighborhoods transformed by roving bands of robotic mowers. From a liability standpoint, it's probably okay for the back yard, but leaving something like this running around unattended in the front yard is just asking for trouble. I'll stick my my traditional mower.
roThe article says that the robot works by a 'perimeter wire', which I take to mean that you will be implanting a wire in the ground around the area you want to be mowed, so your tulips are safe (unless you want them gone). This gives rise to the question, what about small circular flower areas within a lawn? Can you put a perimeter wire around the whole area and then around every area with flowers within the large perimeter? At which point will this little toe-clippiing machine get confused?
Astroturf is green all year round. No maintenance. No need for $2600 robot mower. You don't have to hear whining from your kid because you will never ask (tell) him or her to mow or weed. The city water conservationists will be happy as well. How can you top that?
You didn't read the part where, as soon as it leaves the ground it shuts down and cannot be re-started without a PIN entry? Just like the fancy car radios which are no longer being stolen because they self-disable when removed from the dash.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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