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Honda's Latest Robot Mows Your Lawn

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Beth Stackpole
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The ultimate in weekend convenience
Beth Stackpole   9/4/2012 6:58:01 AM
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I can see thousands of neighborhoods transformed, with kids and parents lolling around on Saturday afternoons while Mimo tends to the grass cutting. How's a kid suppose to earn a little extra pocket money these days with this kind of innovation? Seriously, this is very cool and a great modern convenience. We have an electric fence for my dog and I imagine the perimeter mentioned functions similarly via wireless radio signals.

agriego
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Re: The ultimate in weekend convenience
agriego   9/5/2012 9:31:15 AM
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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.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/21/miimo-lawn-mower_n_1815412.html

 

Alan3354
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Re: The ultimate in weekend convenience
Alan3354   9/5/2012 10:53:08 AM
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I'm reminded of Robert Persig's comments.

We have a riding power mower with a sunshade to cut the grass.

Inside the house, we have an exercise bicycle with a sun lamp attached.

naperlou
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Too much automation?
naperlou   9/4/2012 8:35:11 AM
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This is a great convenience.  I wonder if having it automatically return to its docking station to charge is just too much.

Seriously, this is a chore that many would rather not deal with.  In our area this means that we have lots of lawn services.  I do my own with a John Deere rising mower.  Actually, I kind of like it.  This year we have not had to do it very much, so that might be why.

I wonder, can this be set on a schedule so that you don't even have to be there.  That would be great for people who travel a lot.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Too much automation?
Rob Spiegel   9/4/2012 11:39:12 AM
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Great idea. Perhaps the significant aspect of this product news is Honda's involvement. This is a big step in consumer robotics. We may see additional Honda products using the basic technology in the mower. I can't imagine Honda would do a one-off robotic product. It will be fun to see what comes out going forward.

Whynot@FL
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Re: Too much automation?
Whynot@FL   9/5/2012 1:33:19 PM
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The value of it would be to have it on a schedule, so it can keep cutting when you are not there.

I wonder how it would perform in the fall with leaves falling on the lawn. If it can run continuously (minus the recharging time), it could shred all the leaves back into the lawn as they fall - that time of the year the grass is not growing much anyway. This would be a great way to feed the lawn.

RW
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Re: Too much automation?
RW   9/5/2012 1:41:53 PM
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Yes the value I get from my robomower is I get 15 cuts per month out of it, and thus perfect lawn all the time. Robomower's version are all way less costly than this Honda unit and the cut height is adjustable to much better lengths. It does kill batteries though about every 3 years, and they cost $150 to replace.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Too much automation?
Rob Spiegel   9/5/2012 4:55:16 PM
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$50 per year on batteries doesn't sound too bad, RW. How much did it cost you initially? 

RW
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Re: Too much automation?
RW   9/5/2012 5:07:23 PM
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I got my robomower out of chicago off Kijiji for $450. A steal even if I do live in western Canada and had to ship it haha! Mine is model RL1000 which was the largest model they had at the time. They have a new model called RL2000 which I've been told is exactly the same although I'm not 100% sure then why they would change the model#. IF you look hard enough there are used mowers out there and they are so over built that they never fail. Parts are avaialble though......

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Too much automation?
Rob Spiegel   9/6/2012 11:55:01 AM
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How does it do in cutting the lawn, RW? Does it just wander around until all areas are cut? Do you have to direct it? Does it operate all the time?

RW
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Re: Too much automation?
RW   9/6/2012 12:14:05 PM
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Hi Rob. It does what they call a roboscan and follows the wire around the edge of the yard. From what I can tell it uses a compass, since it doesnt have GPS, and then calculates dimensions of the yard. It then employs a special piece of software that tells it the best way to cut the lawn. SInce it cant track perfectly straight, they sue a cross hatch style cut pattern cutting one diagonal direction with 5-6 spaces between, then when it gets to the end of the lawn it turns at 90 degrees to the orignal cuts and does the same thing. It changes its entry point every time it leaves the perimeter from day to day so that the pattern is not the same. On my .5 acres if you were to leave the grass to get very long, you would notice that the mower misses about 5% of the lawn leaving little clumps the size of a baseball here and there. The next time it goes out, it will usually get all those spots. Once regular cutting begins the missed spots are never long enough to notice so this tenchique seems towork well. As I stated earlier my yard always looks like a golf course :)


You can manually take control of the mower with a simple remote on top if you want to cut areas outside the perimter wire or strange areas it cant normally get to. You can also drive from one zone to another if you have multiple unattached cut areas (back yard vs front yard)

 

My mower goes out every couple days while we sleep at night and takes about 2-3 hrs to do its job. Its very quiet. When I do allow it out on weekends during the day so I can watch it, many of the neighbours gather round to watch also lol. We have also had some looky loos watch from the street with much excitement. Their comments are usually quite humorous. My robomower docks behind my house so that noone can see it on display (theft). I have considered building a house for it to drive into that protects it, but I live in such a remote area amongst farms that I'm not concerned about neighbours taking it and noone really messes around in our neighbourhood (the farmers tend to have guns lol). If I lives in a downtown area, I would probably stick to locking it up and just manuually setting it free every couple days. Its just a simple push the go butto nand it starts cutting.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Too much automation?
Rob Spiegel   9/6/2012 1:23:46 PM
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Good information, RW. Does it park itself when it has complete its rounds. Can you program it to awake every few days (say if you're on vacation)? How does it do in the rain (which could happen while you're sleeping).

RW
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Re: Too much automation?
RW   9/6/2012 1:56:10 PM
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Yes when it finishes it follows the perimeter wire which runs under its dock. When it docks it hits two paddles which recharge the batteries.


It is fully programmable to go out and cut whenever you like. Any day any time. Mine goes out Monday, wednesday, friday  at 2am by schedule, and then I manualy let it out once over the weekend as well during the day just to watch it run as its very ammusing lol.

It doesn't do well in the rain if you have hills as the tires slip. It has a rain sensor though that you can enable or disable. I enable the sensor since I have hills which means if it rains it doesnt go out that day. If you had a flat yard it would do just fine. The clippings it generates are so tiny that you dont end up clogging the mower up like an ordinary mower would after rain.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Too much automation?
Rob Spiegel   9/7/2012 12:27:26 PM
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RW, the rain sensor and the automatic re-charging sound like great additional features. It will be interesting to see if this market takes off. With Honda's high price tag, it sounds like there is plenty of room for competition.

Charles Murray
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Re: Too much automation?
Charles Murray   9/5/2012 5:54:22 PM
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This looks similar to a robo-mower that was introduced by a company called Friendly Robotics in 2006. At the time, the engineers at Friendly Robotics believed the Robo-Mower would become nearly as ubiquitous as the garage door opener.

http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=222118

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Too much automation?
Rob Spiegel   9/6/2012 12:40:29 PM
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Thanks for the link, Chuck. So it looks like there is some competition out there, which makes Honda's $3,000 price tag a bit surprising.

Charles Murray
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Re: Too much automation?
Charles Murray   9/6/2012 8:33:16 PM
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I haven't heard whether Friendly Robotics is still selling Robo-Mowers, Rob. I see they still have a web site, but they seem to have disappeared. There's an old saying that when it comes to innovation, it's better to be second, rather than first. That saying may apply here.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Too much automation?
Rob Spiegel   9/7/2012 1:17:09 PM
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Good point, Chuck. It seems there are a number of robot lawn mowers on the market now. Here's a comparison:

http://www.probotics.com/robotic-lawn-mowers/robot-mower-quick-comparison.htm

One of them, called the BigMow sells for nearly $13,000.

Charles Murray
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Re: Too much automation?
Charles Murray   9/7/2012 6:09:21 PM
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Thanks for the link, Rob. I had no idea there were so many companies making robo-mowers. It's interesting to see how many are using lithium batteries. As I recall, the Friendly Robotics mower would dock itself and re-charge on its own. So what's the purpose of an expensive lithium battery? Is it for bigger lawns?

Jennifer Campbell
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Re: Too much automation?
Jennifer Campbell   9/10/2012 11:06:05 AM
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Reading these comments is as interesting as reading the article. I never knew there were so many robo mowers out there. Makes me wonder why I've never seen one patrolling a neighbor's yard!

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Too much automation?
Rob Spiegel   9/10/2012 2:48:25 PM
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Good questions, Chuck. If the robot can dock itself when it needs to be recharged, it could get by with a less aggressive battery. Could be the self-docking system is a recent innovation.

warren@fourward.com
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Be still my heart!
warren@fourward.com   9/4/2012 3:23:10 PM
A lawn mower that puts me out of a Saturday job.  OK!

But we all know what kind of power it takes to cut grass, so will it be recharging every five minutes?  And we all know all yards are not rectangles, can it really go around everything and not miss patches?  And we all know if we get one of these our wives will just find something else for us to do instead of watching the game, so this must have been invented by a single guy who thinks us married guys will actually benefit.  Sorry, dude!  This won't help!

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Be still my heart!
Rob Spiegel   9/4/2012 3:42:46 PM
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Warren, if this contraption works like the roving vacuum, it may indeed be able to handle odd-shaped lawns with ease. I think this would be the perfect device for solar power since it lives out in the sunshine. You're not going to mow when it rains at any rate.

NadineJ
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Re: Be still my heart!
NadineJ   9/4/2012 5:32:09 PM
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Rob--that's perfect!  If this wre solar pwered, it would be more effective and competitive in the market.  At a cost of about $3,000, it would need something to give it an advantage.  Any lawn that could use this would be very large and would have to be cut several times a week.  Solar power makes sense here.

richnass
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Re: Be still my heart!
richnass   9/4/2012 5:37:23 PM
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I can already see my sprinkler getting cut up, the cat being chased around the yard, etc. It seems to be a very dangerous version of the Roomba.

HBJimmy
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Re: Be still my heart!
HBJimmy   9/5/2012 9:25:52 AM
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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!

richnass
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Re: Be still my heart!
richnass   9/5/2012 9:29:29 AM
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$3000 for a lawn mower.Heck, I could hire somebody for at least five years for that amount.

Whynot@FL
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Re: Be still my heart!
Whynot@FL   9/5/2012 1:28:41 PM
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in the south: $40/cut,4x month, 12 months - 5 years - that's $9,600...

If you don't live in the south: 3 months of 4 cuts per month ($480), 5 months of 2 cuts per month ($400) and 4 months of no cutting (winter)--> $880/year, $3,000 in 3.4 years.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Be still my heart!
Beth Stackpole   9/6/2012 7:10:27 AM
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I hear you, Rich. Lots of opportunity for scares--entertaining some, and others, potentially scary. Now what about one of these guys for racking up the leaves now that we're hitting fall season, or spreading mulch, for that matter. Now that would really be a technological advance and would sign me up for the little guy ASAP.

Dcon
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Re: Be still my heart!
Dcon   9/5/2012 9:17:51 AM
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If your looking for a solar powered self mower try out a Husqvarna.  they have been making robotic mowers for some time now.

 

http://www.husqvarna.com/us/products/robotic-mowers/husqvarna-robotic-mowers-for-homeowners/

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Be still my heart!
Rob Spiegel   9/5/2012 10:47:06 AM
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I agree, Nadine. The beauty of solar power here is that on rainy days -- when the solar power would be weak -- you wouldn't be mowing your lawn anyway. You're right about the cost making this a tool only for very large lawns. But if this catches on, we'll see competition and the price will come down.

LED MAC
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Re: Be still my heart!
LED MAC   9/4/2012 4:50:07 PM
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Mine skipped a beat, too! 

I think I would need a couple of these little guys to mow my entire yard, but the convenience and cool-factor may just be worth it. 

20-60mm is not tall enough, though.   Grass should be cut long in order to help the grass self-protect from drought and weeds.  I usually mow to around 3-4 inches..80-100mm because I don't have the sprinkler system or pockets deep enough to water my yard.   

I imagine that the first market penetration in the U.S. for these may be golf courses, and other properties with owners who put a very high value on perfectly manicured and well-watered grass.  

I wonder which is cheaper, a team of Miimo's or a team of human lawn cutters?  For those in the latter category, (and given the pricepoints below) the next few years may provide a window to update skillsets and/or resumes. 

 

Further reading here (excerpts included below): http://www.robaid.com/robotics/honda-miimo-robotic-mower-will-be-commercially-available.htm

 

Honda announced that Miimo robotic mower will be available in two models, 300 and 500, offering a maximum perimeter cut of 300m and 500m respectively. Honda Miimo 500 will mow up to a total lawn size of 3,000 square meters, around half the size of a typical football pitch, making it suitable for a wide variety of gardens.

Honda Miimo will be manufactured by Honda France Manufacturing in Orlean, and it will be available from Honda Authorized Dealers across Europe in early 2013 for prices ranging between $2,600 and $3,000, depending on options. While it may seem a lot for regular lazy people, it is competitive to other already established names in this niche.

They also plan to offer a service which comes along much more expensive robotic lawn mowers, and that their model for Honda Lawn & Garden Authorized Dealers. It will be sold as a full service package, where a dealer helps in installation of the system and its tinkering to suit particular needs of the client.

They install the docking station, which acts as the charging point and signal generator, and a boundary wire which defines the mowing area. Honda Miimo is then programmed to cut to a schedule convenient to the customer, via its inbuilt timer and calendar. At the end of the season, Honda Authorized Dealer collects it for winter maintenance.

Whynot@FL
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Re: Be still my heart!
Whynot@FL   9/5/2012 1:22:14 PM
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I agree on the cutting height - see my other post.

I do not have a very large yard - about 1/3 acre, and I pay $120/month for yard service. Another offer I had received was $180/month. This does include some clipping of bushes, removal of dead palm branches, etc... assumin 80% of the work is the lawn cutting, based on time, that is $96/month, $1,152/year (no dormant season for the grass in Florida).

(The Lawn Advisor . com has $20-$40/cut for a 1/2 acre lawn... 1 cut per week would be $80-$160/month, so my $96 is somewhere in-between).

Not including electricity, maintenance of the mower, etc... it would take 2.25 years to pay back the mower. Based on Honda's reliability, this is not an outrageous life, but then the life of the batteries and blades is unknown, plus the cost of installing the perimeter wires.

Golf courses - not sure if they would want to invest in setting up the perimeters for all the greens... they have specific areas that get cut at different heights... and I can imagine an army of mowing robots stuck in the bunkers waiting to be saved.

The Designist
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Re: Be still my heart!
The Designist   9/5/2012 9:21:42 AM
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Warren,

Don't worry.  As soon as you put it out in your yard, somebody will come by and steal it.  And you're back to nominal.

 

Larry M
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Re: Be still my heart!
Larry M   9/5/2012 9:55:07 AM
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.

DetailDevil
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Honda Robot
DetailDevil   9/5/2012 9:25:57 AM
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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!

 

didymus7
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Re: Honda Robot
didymus7   9/5/2012 9:35:21 AM
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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? 

didymus7
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Manufactured Where?
didymus7   9/5/2012 9:28:40 AM
Since it is being manufactured in France, it might be expedient to wait a while to buy one just to get one that works.  On the positive side, it wasn't designed in France (I hope).

BillyBob
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AstroTurf
BillyBob   9/5/2012 9:51:37 AM
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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?

BillyBob
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Re: AstroTurf
BillyBob   9/5/2012 9:59:25 AM
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There is a certain coolness factor in owning a lawn mowing robot.  Certainly, you could program it to chase the cats and dogs off your property for obvious reasons.

Watashi
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Re: AstroTurf
Watashi   9/5/2012 10:52:03 AM
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The chasing cats and dogs would be entertaining.

Why not arm it with a paintball gun and it can pull double duty as lawn mower and security guard!  More features to justify that price tag. 

Of course being French, it would just surrender to intruders.

paulbruce
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WHERE IT CAN AND CAN'T WORK
paulbruce   9/5/2012 11:14:07 AM
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While I fathom many fun possibilities, I do not see that this can be left unmonitored in a front yard in America.  In Japan no problem.  But in America there is the theft of an expensive item almost certain for drug or video game money.  And then there would be the certain law suit filed for some intriqued stranger who walks onto your lawn uninvited and is injured.  Sorry, only in America can progress be so detoured by selfcentered idiots. 

 

paul bruce

Watashi
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Re: WHERE IT CAN AND CAN'T WORK
Watashi   9/5/2012 12:34:00 PM
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After I posted I had a serious thought - adding a camera (with sound) that would send images to a server in the house might actually be useful.  A couple sensors could be added that would help the mower 'patrol', detect, and observe moving people/animals. 

It would also help identify the neighborhood kid that steals your expensive mower.  Good luck getting it back in one piece.

Whynot@FL
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Re: AstroTurf
Whynot@FL   9/5/2012 12:24:45 PM
Or you can sit in a lawn chair with a beer in one hand and a paint gun in the other and use the moving mower (on 'random' mode) as a target... I wonder if that would be considered an 'impact' - like hitting an object - and make it turn around... I'm sure someone will post it on You Tube.

Watashi
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Re: AstroTurf
Watashi   9/5/2012 12:35:08 PM
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I didn't even think of that.  Now I want one!!!

3drob
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Re: AstroTurf
3drob   9/5/2012 1:27:31 PM
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You would have to put one of those spring loaded chickens on the top of it to make a proper paint-ball (bb) gun target.

But $3000?  I pay a guy $50 a cut to do my 1/2 acre lot.  He does a good job, I don't have to install a perimeter fence to keep him "in bounds", and he takes liability if anyone gets hurt.  This is clearly a solution looking for a problem.

Bonus, it's made in France!  France made our subway system (here in D.C.)  It's only killed a few dozen people in the last year or so.  So how bad could a little, French made lawn mower really be?

robatnorcross
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Re: AstroTurf
robatnorcross   9/5/2012 5:14:21 PM
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This sounds a LOT more usefull than the one in an earlier article that replaced a doctor.  My question is whether it will cut the 12" weeds/grass that cover my yard?

I would pay almost anything to not have to cut the grass/weeds ever again.

May be you could teach it to attack any neighborhood kids that wander into your yard. If it ground them up into small enough pieces it wouldn't be detectable.

PizzaEater
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What if you have a dog, who does what all dogs doo?
PizzaEater   9/5/2012 10:34:41 AM
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Will it avoid where you dog has been?  Or will it spread said fertilizer around the yard and back into the garage?

Tweet
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Unfair to ASIMO...
Tweet   9/5/2012 10:35:31 AM
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I'm waiting for the Lawn Mowing software update for ASIMO. Then he can push my existing mower around. In the meantime I'll be reloading some 12 gauge with rock salt for the security system.

BillyBob
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Alternative Tasking
BillyBob   9/5/2012 11:23:14 AM
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Maybe the mower could double as a beer tender for those thirsty souls sitting in the shade watching it mow.  There are many more creative things it could do as well with other attachments.  Paint the fence, wash the driveway, fetch the paper, etc...  

Whynot@FL
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Who cuts their grass 0.78" high?
Whynot@FL   9/5/2012 12:21:51 PM
The recommended cutting height for northern US grasses is 2" (50mm) minimum, 3" (76mm) preferred. Some southern grasses do get cut a little shorter (1"-1.5" for Bermuda, 1.5"-2" for zoysia; 3" for St. Augustine and tall fescue). So the range proposed by Honda is not realistic; cutting the grass shorter promotes the growth of weeds, which most people happily treat with chemical fertilizers that go down in the water supply and kill the fauna in the process. So, while using a battery powered mower is better for the environment than a conventional mower, the claim that this 'minimizes environmental impact' is counteracted by an improper cutting height (unless you have a golf course putting green). The fact that it mulches the grass cuttings is a good thing, though, as that would feed the lawn... of course it will pulverise the dog poop at the same time, which will feed the lawn as well!

RW
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Nothing new here....
RW   9/5/2012 12:22:00 PM
There's nothing ground breaking here. Robomow has had a robot mower for many years exactly the same as this and in fact I own one. My wife and I couldn't imagine life without it. It mows the lawn every second day all on its own at night while noone is around, docks itself afterwards, re-charges automatically, then goes out two days later again on its own. My lawn always looks like a golf course, and since its running on electricity is far cleaner than a lawn mower gas engine (one of the worst polluters out there). Robomower installs proximity sensors for child/animal detection, as well as bumpers for items left on the lawn and a rain sensor so it doesnt get stuck out on wet grass. Ive had mine for 2 years to cut my 1/2 acre lawn, and am looking for another for my other smaller section of lawn. You can buy these used for around $500-$1000 and you wont believe the satisfaction it brings and the productivity since you can do something else while it cuts the lawn like go for a hike or bike ride and enjoy the excercise you are doing. It saves me hours per week. They also mulch the lawn, and since they do it so often, there is no grass clippings laying about on the lawn and the lawn stays much healthier since you are not removing all the nutrients. Some people say "you are lazy". I dont look at it as lazy, I look at it as an opportunity to do something else while the lawn gets cut for me.

 

 

William K.
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Robot Lawnmower
William K.   9/6/2012 4:45:39 PM
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Very interesting indeed. But the cost is a big deal also.  It takes as long to unroll the cord of my electric lawnmower as it doesto mow the lawn. So I do wonder about the value provided to me by an automated mowwer. For a 5 acre lawn it could make sense, but for a really small lawn even a powered mower is a stretch. Every once in a while though, it seems that it might be handy to have some robot do the mowing, mostly when the weather is really hot.

Tool_maker
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Why that chore?
Tool_maker   9/19/2012 1:04:55 PM
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  I do not care for most of the chores associated with being a home owner, but mowing the grass is a good excuse to get out of the house and lose the blues of the day while pondering the meaning of life. I agree with Warren's early post that this just presents an opening for my wife to find more chores. If someone really wants to create a robot to do really good things for a homeowner, make one that scrapes and then paints the window frames that are in need of both. How about one that cleans my gutters or picks up after the dog? But leave my grass alone. Same with shoveling snow. They are both good exercise and leave me with a feeling of accomplishment. Just goes to show what a mundane life I lead.

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