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Smart Home: Robots in the Garden

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Smart Home: Robots in the Garden

July 19, 2017

Good news for the lazy gardener: robots are coming to take over your job!

Meet the next generation of robotic lawn mowers—robot landscapers. (You’ve probably heard about robotic lawn mowers. Much like a Roomba, the robotic mower roams around your lawn on its own, cutting as it goes. Many of these machines—and there are several on the market now—can be programmed remotely via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or smartphone. They run on rechargeable batteries and send themselves back to their charging stations whenever the power gets low. A robotic mower works best on a fairly flat surface; to keep it from wandering off the premises, you have to set up a wire perimeter in your yard, and also string wires around any flowerbeds or other areas you don’t want it to venture into.)

Robot landscapers can however do so much more than cut the grass: they rake leaves, mulch, blow snow, and weed your edible garden. There’s even a robot that can clean your outdoor grill. What high-tech device is next? Who knows, maybe an Edward Scissorhands bot to prune your hedges?

Read on for three next-generation garden robots:

Kobi

Photograph by Kobi.
Above: Photograph by Kobi.

What It Does: The new Kobi promises to mow, pick up and remove leaves from your yard, and even clear snow from your driveway in winter. The Kobi comes with several interchangeable attachments, depending on the job you want done. If it’s picking up leaves, the machine will mulch the leaves and then dump them elsewhere (you simply use the Kobi app to tell it where you want your leaves to go). With the snow-blower attachment in operation, the Kobi can blow the white stuff as far as 40 feet, depending on the snow’s weight. And the Kobi doesn’t wait for the flakes to accumulate—thanks to a wireless connection to the weather forecast, it knows when snow is on the horizon, so it sets to work immediately to keep your driveway clear while the snow comes down.

Pros: Unlike a robotic lawnmower, the Kobi doesn’t need a boundary wire to stay on your property. You simply use the smartphone app to steer it around your property line and/or driveway one time, and the machine employs its GPS system and several sensors to register and store that information. Safety features include a camera and ultrasonic sensors that shut down the snowblower augers if any objects are detected on top of the snow, and an alarm that sounds if anyone tries to steal it (you’ll also get a warning on your smartphone).

Cons: Well, there are two, actually. One is the price: The Kobi starts at $3,999. The other is the wait list. Early-bird units are all gone, but you can put your name down to find out when new Kobis are available in your area.

Tertill

Photograph via Tertill Kickstarter.
Above: Photograph via Tertill Kickstarter.

And here’s another robot that’s waiting to do your work. A Kickstarter campaign has been collecting funds for Franklin Robotics to start manufacturing the Tertill, which is designed to weed your garden.

What It Does: This weatherproof, solar-powered device eliminates the need for chemical weed killers. It takes up permanent residence in your flower or vegetable garden, where it meanders around snipping away any small plants it encounters. (It’s a bit like a Roomba, too—and in fact, it was invented by the same person, roboticist Joe Jones.)

The Tertill uses sensors to detect the height of a plant. It leaves those well-established carrots and peppers alone, but goes after any short weeds that have sprouted up, hacking them down with a string trimmer. (You can protect shorter plants you want to keep by surrounding them with one of the wire collars provided.)

Pros: A fence or even low edging around the garden keeps the Tertill from wandering off, and four-wheel-drive lets it navigate sloping land and maneuver through soft soil, sand, and mulch. A $249 pledge on Kickstarter gets you a Tertill.

Cons: A Tertill won’t ship until May 2018. The price is likely to be higher when it goes into full production.

Grillbot

Photograph via Grillbots.
Above: Photograph via Grillbots.

We have one more robot to make summertime living easy.

What It Does: The Grillbot, an automatic grill cleaner, scours away caked-on residue on your grill while you sit idly by with a cocktail. It comes with a rechargeable battery, replaceable wire brushes, and an LCD timer. Once the job is done, you simply pop the brushes in the dishwasher for the next go round.

Pros: The Grillbot sells for $79.99, and comes in black, red, or orange.

Cons: Consumer reviews on the site are somewhat mixed, although one user acknowledges, “Frankly, does a better job than I ever did.”

N.B.: See more of our Smart Home posts on new technology for the garden:

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