Honda's Latest Robot Mows Your Lawn

Feel too hot and lazy to mow the lawn in the late-summer heat? Why not let Miimo -- the first entry in the home robotics market from Honda -- do it for you.

Miimo
is a robotic lawnmower that works via electronic sensors to continuously cut grass and safely navigate slopes and obstacles, according to the company, which for 10 years has developed an intelligent humanoid robot called ASIMO. ASIMO, which walks and talks and has been lauded for its innovation, is less than practical for everyday use and is not commercially available.

Miimo, on the other hand, is designed for the home consumer market, looking and performing somewhat like iRobot's Roomba robotic vacuum and aimed at helping make a common task easier, safer, and more environmentally friendly. Miimo will join existing robotic lawnmowers like Robomow and Husqvarna's Auto Mower in the European market early next year, with release in the US sometime thereafter.

Miimo works by communicating with an electronic signal in a perimeter wire around a lawn or a patch of grass, navigating the area to be groomed and cutting just 2mm to 3mm of grass at a time. By cutting in this way, the robot creates grass clippings so small that rather than be collected, they are spread across the lawn to eventually break down as a natural fertilizer, according to Honda.

Miimo has three blades that Honda said it designed to sustain minimal damage if they come into contact with sharp or hard objects in the grass. Rather than shatter on impact, they bend, which means broken blade shards won't be left on the lawn. The robot also has so-called "bump" sensors that detect whether it comes into contact with an object, activating a sensor that will turn and move the robot away from the impact point.

Users can adjust the robot's blade height between 20mm and 60mm depending on preference, as well as choose from three modes of operation -- random, directional, or mixed. In the first mode, the robot mows the lawn without a specific pattern, while the second mode features a back-and-forth movement with increased speed. In mixed mode, the robot employs both random and directional methods to cut grass, according to Honda.

The robot also has the ability to ascend slopes and will automatically reduce its wheel speed if its hits a patch of thick or long grass or rough terrain. Additionally, Honda has designed Miimo with built-in safety sensors that will activate if the robot leaves the ground. If this happens, the mower will shut down completely, sound an alarm, and cannot start again until a user enters the proper PIN.

Miimo also features a self-charging lithium-ion battery that monitors its power level and autonomously returns to its docking station when it needs recharging. As with other robotic mowers, this type of power minimizes environmental impact, reducing emissions that come with gasoline-driven lawnmowers, as well as reducing noise pollution.

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