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back to article Who needs a ride-on mower when a ROBOT will cut your grass

In December last year the UK's biggest DIY chain started stocking its first robot lawnmower. That's an insane time to try out grass-cutting technology, so we waited for June to get a proper look at the latest in automated high street grass maintenance. Bosch Indego Tennis court need a trim? Bring on the Bosch Indego The …

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Animals

How do these things behave when confronted with children or animals. Ok, most dogs will simply run away and cats generally don't hang around but let's say for arguements sake that one of my dogs is having one of his sunbathing sessions and is lying(sleeping) legs fully stretched out. Will this thing simply whip of a piece of skin or two as it passes by and leave said doggy in a miserable state or will it stop, back up and complete it's task thouroughly.

Our dogs are not the most intelligent and tend to want to play with dangerous items rather than ran away from them. Since this thing is electric I presume that it doesn't make much nose compared to a pertrol driven version.

Also will they mulch through aforementioned doggies waste products.... Our dogs are small and have the nasty habit of leaving little black treasures on the lawn.

Kudos for being able to use "punctiliousness" in an article.

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Happy

Re: Animals

doggies waste products

Never found a rotary that had a problem here. The only big issue is the neat brown stripe that such a device draws across your trouser legs when you hit one. This would seem to solve that problem by removing the need for you to stand behind it while it's mowing the turdslawn.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Animals

Our dogs are not the most intelligent and tend to want to play with dangerous items rather than ran away from them.

Hmm. Strikes me as a problem that Darwin will solve. Give it time.

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What happened to GAGA

We haven't had an update since 2012

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Re: What happened to GAGA

I believe that the Bootnote pretty well answers your question.

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Re: What happened to GAGA

This idea is old old old. I remember going to a lawn and garden show back in 95 and some company had the same thing. It would cut grass and go "find" its home. The mower I really liked had no wheels, it hovered. Main selling point was being able to cut grass on a slope around a pond or other water source.

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Alert

Re: What happened to GAGA

"The mower I really liked had no wheels, it hovered. Main selling point was being able to cut grass on a slope around a pond or other water source."

I can see how a hover mower can cut on a slope with a human to hold it in position. How does it manage to stay on or climb a slope on its own?

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Re: What happened to GAGA

If you ask the guys at Indego, they'll tell you that theirs is a lot less bovver than a hover.

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Re: What happened to GAGA

ahh, missed the bootnote there. Thanks.

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Re: What happened to GAGA

It was nothing more than a giant wead eater. The Deck was designed in such a way to force as much air down to create lift. You didn't need "wheels". It hovered. You would simply push, pull or twist to make it go where you needed it to go. It was extremely light weight.

Search for "Hovering Lawn Mower" and you will see it. There are videos of it on action also.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What happened to GAGA

This idea is old old old. I remember going to a lawn and garden show back in 95 and some company had the same thing.

I recall having a diagram to convert a 2 wheel self-propelled cylindrical petrol mower into a 3 wheel with a guide wire for what it should go buried in the lawn, and a car battery for powering a steering motor. That electronics diagram was from 1963 (came across it in a stack of old electronics mags), so, at half a century old I guess we can say indeed that the idea is not new :).

Now, is there a Roomba equivalent that has a brain like this thing?

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E 2

Re: What happened to GAGA

"That electronics diagram was from 1963..."

Doubtless Apple is drawing up a patent application for this.

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"The Indego Robotic Lawnmower comes in at £1,300, inclusive"

Inclusive of what? Road tax?

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Pint

Re: "The Indego Robotic Lawnmower comes in at £1,300, inclusive"

Inclusive of what? Road tax?

Inclusive of looking smug in front of the neighbours as you sit there supping an ale while the mower does your work.

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Pint

Re: "The Indego Robotic Lawnmower comes in at £1,300, inclusive"

My ride-on has a beer holder. And ale is the recommended beverage, lager is shaken flat in seconds...

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Pint

Re: "The Indego Robotic Lawnmower comes in at £1,300, inclusive"

"lager is shaken flat in seconds"

You're drinking it too slow!

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Re: "The Indego Robotic Lawnmower comes in at £1,300, inclusive"

Plus, if you have a ride-on mower the kids will queue up for a chance to drive it round the lawn.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "The Indego Robotic Lawnmower comes in at £1,300, inclusive"

the kids will queue up for a chance to drive it round the lawn.

.. and flower beds, and the hose, and, given half the chance, the dog ..

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Anonymous Coward

Great for surburban 2.4 children housing estate gardens.

Meanwhile in the real world we'd find it jammed on a fresh molehill, or fell down a random hole the dog dug round the back, or balanced jammed on one of the kids balls or perched on a old bone the dog left around etc.

I think we need the all terrain 20hp killer machine from hell version to cope with these aspects.

Somehow I doubt I am the target market however, since I've now resorted to using a topper on the back of a medium sized tractor as its much more robust than any of the flimsy mower offerings when confronted with unexpected surprises...

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Coat

Totally agree. It has to be petrol powered to have a chance. Our dog seems to have the same mission as yours, spending his waking hours secreting mower killing logs all over the lawn. He also secretes foul smelling logs, but those the mower doesn't mind.

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Devil

What we need is for someone to develop a Robotic Allen-Scythe!

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No, think bigger there

What you want to do is build on the Brott series of grasscutters. These were small paddock mowers, and the best way to describe one is to think of a bastard cross between a Harley Davidson and a silage harvester, as built by a slightly insane bucolic Hells Angel.

It was a ride-on flail mower, which collected its grass clippings as it went. Standard practice using one was to put it in bottom gear, and run the engine at maximum revs; this produced a deep drone from the flail mower combined with a howl from the engine. These mowers would cut pretty much anything, from grass to wood to molehills and so on. Cats and dogs getting in the way was not a problem; anything with a brain headed for the horizon if it heard one coming; anything without a brain got pulverised.

This would be an ideal platform to build into a mower-bot.

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Re: Great for surburban 2.4 children housing estate gardens

Agree. This is the Dyson DC25 of the lawnmower world. A seemingly clever yet functionally flawed device made out of plastic with a hefty price tag.

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Re: No, think bigger there

Good for clearing mines too.

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'jammed on one of the kid's balls' - Damn, that would HURT!

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Damn, that would HURT!

Perfect timing - I had just raised my coffee to my lips as I read that.

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Facepalm

Pointless unless...

"Carefully progressing in stripes is pointless when there's no roller to show off one's punctiliousness"

Actually, there is a good point: it lets the machine track what has and has not been cut, in an efficient manner. Obviously. D'oh!

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Re: Pointless unless...

I don't see the connection. It could cut in whatever shape it likes and still keep track, surely?

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Boffin

Re: Pointless unless...

You need to consider the algorithm being used to track the cutting and just how much memory and CPU you need to handle that algorithm. Using a simple, iterative linear progression allows use of a simple "flood fill" algorithm that takes very little memory to hold current state. And doesn't need much CPU either.

Hence my use of the term "efficient".

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Re: Hence my use of the term "efficient".

It's a robotic lawnmower. It's more important to worry about how much power it takes moving and mowing than how many clock cycles or how much ram it needs to work out where to go next. What's in there, a ZX81?

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Re: Pointless unless...

"I don't see the connection. It could cut in whatever shape it likes and still keep track, surely?"

The point is that the English have a fondness for striped lawns that can only be achieved by the use of a mower with a cylindrical cutter (which leaves a small but noticeable directional "nap" on the turf, and a roller mounted behind the cutter is even better) and this lawnbot has a rotor-type cutter.

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@sabroni, Re: Hence my use of the term "efficient".

It is cheaper to implement a simple algorithm, needing very little memory and simple CPU (like you might have in a calculator as opposed to a smartphone) and far less likely to have bugs in it - you don't want the mower leaving patches of the lawn uncut because someone tried to implement a fancy algorithm and failed to consider edge cases.

Lines are easy to handle with efficiency and have well-known algorithms to implement - check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flood_fill#Scanline_fill for some info.

I suspect that the manufacturer will want to skimp on their outlay on the electronics hardware and the software required (they probably outsource for that) to maximize profit too.

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I have some issues with these things

- they are way too expensive for what they are and do

- more intelligence is needed, there's already a model that detects its perimeter with a sensor and not a wire though.

- same basic problem as robo vacuum cleaners: can't deal with stuff lying around

Solve these and then we can talk ;)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I have some issues with these things

This problem has already been solved, it's called having a wife, a house husband, a marital partner or whatever you call the person that you live with.

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Re: I have some issues with these things

"... the person that you live with."

This doesn't address the "too expensive" complaint, if anything it exacerbates it.

One other point is that it only does 1000 m2. I suppose that's fine if the weather is such that you can leave it to do it's thing on a large yard over the course of however long it takes but for a 1000 m2 I don't see the point since even with a smaller push mower you can be done in a bit over half an hour. I suppose there must be a size niche where this would fit but I'm not seeing it.

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Sheep?

It sounds horribly expensive and over-complicated: I have a vision of it toppling over and rolling down one of my 45-degree grassy slopes, to lie distressed at the bottom like an upturned turtle - or it fighting a losing battle with a coil of garden hose, or drowning itself in the pond.

Far better (and cheaper) to get an orphan spring lamb from the local farmer to crop your grass - this also has the advantage that at the end of the season you have something to go in the freezer.

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Re: Sheep?

The problem with sheep is fitting/changing the grass catcher.

Note: I accept Australian and Welsh customers may find this an added feature.

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Re: Sheep?

Oddly enough we do get lambs in the garden on occasion, from the neighbouring field, but they poo on the garden a lot more than Indego.

Bill.

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What about rain?

If it's scheduled to just go and mow the lawn once a week while I'm at work does it matter if it's raining and do you need to build a small shed for it to sit under? I only ask because I usually avoid cutting the grass when it's wet making it more difficult to mow and clogging things up. Also at different times of year I find the grass needs to be cut at different intervals, I guess you need to manually alter the schedule according to the seasons? Or is it all more stupid than that and you have to be there to take it out the shed, place it on it's start point and then set it off manually?

It would be good if it went out twice a week, checked the grass length and if it wasn't long enough to bother cutting it would cancel the job.

It's no use for me anyway since I've got 4 lawns all on different levels and I'm not building ramps just for the mower. I'll just wait for the one that can fly too. Now there's a film title, "Attack of the flying lawn mowers".

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Happy

Re: What about rain?

Ahhhhh you need the Internet Of Things

The mower could use your wi-fi to access a weather forecast and decide when to operate.

As this is not perfect you could then give it a link to your home weather station to determine local conditions.

The burglar alarm could be integrated to give it patio door status and/or room movement detector outputs, thus giving an indication of people in the house/garden.

Simples!

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Re: What about rain?

> Also at different times of year I find the grass needs to be cut at different intervals,

You can send it out every day so the grass will never really get any longer that a day or twos worth.

As for the ramps well I am afraid to tell you that you will probably need to fork out £5200, one for each section....ouch.... You will be the poorest man in the neighbourhood but will then be in a position to win a prize for your multi-tiered, automatically cut, perfectly groomed lawns....

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Re: What about rain?

No small shed, unlike his predecessor (who did have a little house) Inigo doesn't care about the rain.

Wet grass is harder to cut, and will get clogged up eventually, so the occasional wipe around is a good idea. We send him our daily, to make sure the tips aren't too long, but we're also still clearing part of the garden which has descended into prairie while we were robotless.

We cut a section with the strimmer, then extend the wire, about 10-20 square meters each weekend so far.

Bill.

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Nothing new here

Back in the '80s Iwas on a course in robotics and the class had to decide on a project to design a domestic robot. Because I already had experience with mowing equipment we decided to go for a robot mower.

Our design was for a 16" lead acid powered item witha learning chip so you had to run around the route once and in theory it would do that forever after. To trigger a session we decided on a simple electric eye system so that when the grass reached a certain height the mower would detatch itself from the the charging dock and whiz around the garden, for kids and dogs we fitted 4 way doppler radar and in the event of hitting an obstacle that prevented it from going forward it would back away and move to the right by one cutting width.

After cutting it would go back to the dockwhich would funnel it into postion onto the charging splkes.

Unfortunately we never got to make the whole thing so never had a chance to see how good (or bad) it would be at its job.

A few years later Viking brought a machine that was quite similar.

With the tech available now though I would prefer to develop something with DARPA that has on board lasers for those stubborn weeds or other obstacles and neighbour recognition software to prevent extended borrowing and maybe a homing device or system.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Nothing new here

that has on board lasers

That'll be fun if the lawn is dry - it'll mow it by burning the lot. On the plus side, you could also program it to guard the garden against stray cats, provided you stop it from pointing upwards and downing aircraft. :)

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Stop

Drilling holes, cursing at flat-pack furniture, removing spiders, spending hours starting the petrol mower. These are the things that build character in a man. Anyone bloke who buys one of these is chipping away at his innate manliness and will eventually start getting urges to watch box-sets of "Sex in the city" and buying stuff like Nivea exfoliating face scrub for men!

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I'm definately in the market for something like this. I can even live with having to move the childrens toys off the grass first.

I just can't quite see myself stumping up a grand for more for one.... That's about 4 or 5 years of paid grass cutting from the local gardner, which is probably how long the mower will reasonably last.

When the price drops to 3 or 400 quid, then I'm in.

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I'm also in the market.

I discovered a few years ago that when you have hayfever, even a tractor-mower is a bloody chore rather than fun.

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Anonymous Coward

Scorched earth

A coat of diesel fuel provides a low maintenance lawn that lasts and lasts....

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