It’s an automated, household robot. Small, round, even kind of cute, it circles to and fro, cheerfully tending to its job so you don’t have to. No, I’m not talking about Roomba. I’m talking about Miimo, the lawn-cutting robot made by Honda that will soon make chore-averse Europeans’ dreams come true.
Miimo cuts the lawn in random patterns, guided by “controls, timers and real-time sensory feedback,” decreasing wear-and-tear on the grass. Miimo cuts only a few millimeters per day and performs its duty several times a week. The clippings are short enough that there’s no need to bag them – they just fall and become compost fertilizer for the grass. A fan near the blades sucks the grass towards the blades, making the cut height consistent.
A runaway robotic lawnmower sounds like something out of a Stephen King novel, and Honda’s trying to make sure Miimo doesn’t turn into a horror story. Its cutting boundary is set by an electronic signal sent from a wire either beneath or above ground that it navigates within. It has three ‘bump’ sensors that, like Roomba, will prompt it to stop. turn, and move in a different direction upon running into a solid object. It’s also equipped with lift sensors that shut the robot down if it happens to leave the ground – as if being picked up by a curious neighbor. Once it’s shut down it can’t be restarted without a PIN. Its blades are safer, too, than ordinary mowers. If they strike a hard object like a rock or curb the flexible blades will bend but won’t shatter.
Initially there will be two models available: Honda Miimo 300 and 500, cutting a maximum perimeter of 300m and 500m, respectively. The 500 model can cut an area up to 3,000 square meters, or about the size of a soccer field. And depending on your moving needs, be it a lawn, garden section, or a soccer field, it can be programmed to cut in ‘directional,’ ‘random,’ or ‘mixed’ patterns. And at the end of its toiling, when its lithium-ion battery is running low, the CO2 emissionsless Miimo automatically returns to and recharges at a docking station.
And all the while we can sit on our lawn chairs and sip lemonade. Boy do I wish I had Miimo when I was growing up. Teenagers across Europe will no doubt rejoice when the motorized mower is made available in 2013. But with the two models going for 2,100 and 2,500 euros ($2,600 and $3,000), not all of their parents will be so enthusiastic about freeing up their Saturday mornings.