With the recent UK release of its Miimo, Honda is only the latest company to put what is basically the lawnmower equivalent of a Roomba on the market. Just like that popular vacuum cleaner, it uses sensors to go around obstacles, but unlike other lawnmowers of its type, the Miimo runs on a rechargeable battery instead of electricity or gas. Despite the obvious appeal of having a robot do the mowing — and the fact that such machines been around, in different forms, since the mid-1990s — sales, though growing, have been slow.
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What’s the Big Idea?
The most obvious issue is price: The Miimo starts at £1,990 (just over US$3,200), which is far and above what most regular lawnmowers cost. Chris Melhuish of the British Robotics Laboratory says, “If it were something I could get for £100, put down half a dozen markers and then off it would go, that would be fine.” However, he also says that “service robotics” will become a part of normal life within the next decade, most likely starting with cleaning robots in public places.