iRobot's lawnmower patents
Robot Stock News
has dug up patents filed by iRobot that indicate the company behind the Roomba has considered making a home robot that cuts grass. While it's being somewhat breathlessly reported by Robot Stock News
, it's really no surprise: Forbes reported
that iRobot had been developing something along those lines since at least 2006.
Robot lawnmowers have been available for quite a while — since before the 2002 introduction of the Roomba, at least — but I've only ever heard mixed reports of their usefulness. For one, most have required beacons or wires to be embedded under the turf to establish barriers. iRobot's bot might do something similar, but the patent indicates GPS or some other form of wireless tether has at least been considered.
Robot Stock News
lists other possible features:
* A possible edge trimmer along the outside edge of the chassis.
* The possibility of collecting clippings and depositing them at a specified location;
* The possibility of using RFID tags or proximity sensors to avoid running into pets or people;
* The possibility of learning your lawn in the first cutting and remembering it for future cuttings;
* The inclusion of grass-combing technology to ensure that the grass is fluffed and properly oriented for cutting.
Although it is my instinct to snidely brush off the merit of a Roomba for the lawn (especially since I've had such a sordid history
with my Roombas), iRobot does
have a better track record at home robots than any other company and I'd be curious to see how they would tackle the problem. One thing is for sure: a lawn Roomba would need lots of maintenance from its owner, just like its dust-eating brothers.
While we're on the subject, I first started using a reel lawnmower
last year (not that model) and was surprised how well even the old rusty one worked on a small lawn. It was downright pleasant to trim the grass without all the clatter of a gas mower. I understand that some people's lawns are too big to make a reel mower practical, but if you've got a small lawn you should try one out. They're not as big of a pain as old cartoons made them out to be.
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