If you are looking for a new robot to mow your lawn or to upgrade the old one, in this article I made a list of robot lawn mowers that matches to gardening trends of 2018, trends in technology and ecology.
Well, after many hours of searching for the perfect robot for the garden of 2018, I have found that the garden robots manufacturers cut off from the list of technologies almost all technology trends such as GPS navigation and computer vision. Also, they have forgotten to differentiate themselves from competitors. Most models available on the market offer roughly the same features.
Under these circumstances, I have made a collection of robots that have one or more specifications that fit the needs of a garden in 2018.
Let’s take them one at a time:
Trends in gardens
There are some trends in 2018, but I will refer strictly to the trends in the area of the house garden where such a robot can be used – that is, the lawn area.
The key here is ‘balancing nature and nurture’, so you’re advised to ‘sit back, relax and reflect on the beauty of your garden’s natural imperfections’. Overgrown perennials, moss-covered stones, rusty iron gates and weathered pots are in keeping with this trend. [source]
The word “imperfection” is the key word for the garden robot of 2018. As a challenge, the robot must know how to navigate autonomously among stones and perennial plants. In addition, the robot must be able to cut the grass as close to an irregular surface such as a stone with dimensions between a few centimeters and tens of centimeters. In this case, it is not enough for the robot to know how to navigate randomly within a bounded perimeter. Additionally, it has to use sensors so as to avoid obstacles and at the same time cut the grass around the small islets with stones and perennials.
Outdoor entertaining and kitchen areas will be a key trend for Spring/Summer 2018 – perfect for those of us who lack space in our kitchens or dining rooms, as we can move entertaining friends and family outside. Create a dedicated area with comfy furniture and mood lighting, complete with a sunken fire pit, barbecue or pizza oven. [source]
Another trend is a garden area dedicated to a table, chairs and a barbecue. Usually, such areas are near the house and have one or more edges of the lawn area. In such areas, a lawn perimeter delimited by wires can become inconvenient if it is not well mounted. The convenient solution would be a grass-cutting robot capable to make the distinction between a lawn area and a relaxing area.
“Food gardening continues to be incredibly popular with gardeners of all ages, and for me, a big part of the fun in food gardening is trying new edibles; from quirky cucamelons and burr gherkins to super-sweet ground cherries. From chickpeas and edamame to heat-tolerant, exotic greens like magenta spreen, sweet potato leaves, and amaranth,” says author Niki Jabbour [source]
Even if there is a big difference between how a grass thread looks like and for example a ground cherry, we need a robot to distinguish between what needs to be cut and any other plant that is part of the garden decoration. The technology solution would be a camera to capture images and an artificial intelligence algorithm to identify the grass and plants. Such a computer vision system is not very difficult to implement and does not come with a very high additional cost.
So far I’ve gone through the three important trends for a robot lawn mower. To be as clear as possible, let’s take a look at the ideal specifications needed for a robot capable of maintaining the lawn in a 2018 garden.
- the robot is able to avoid obstacles and work besides irregular surfaces;
- the robot is able to identify the lawn area and the relaxing areas in the garden;
- the robot makes the difference between the grass and other plant;
I’ve looked for the above features in over 15 newer and older models of lawn mower robots. The result is not the expected one. I’ve realized that the robot manufacturers have tried more to make a mix of technologies already used on a large scale and release new models which do not bring anything significant in addition to the old models. I didn’t find something revolutionary in this area.
The list below includes lawn mowing robots that meet only a part of the features identified above. For each robot, I made a list of specifications that worth mentioning. This information can help you identify the robot model that suits your garden.
But let’s not forget that in addition to the specifications of a garden robot for 2018, there is a list of very important basic features. Fortunately, all of the lawn mower robots include these features as standard. One of them, and perhaps one of the most important, is the grass cutting system. Such a robot must be able to provide a fine mulch that acts as a lawn fertilizer and eliminates the need for raking. Also, the robot must be able to recharge autonomously and without the intervention of a person.
The uncut garden fringe area has been reduced from 20cm area to a 2.5 cm area!
Setting the cutting blade to the edge of the robot allows cutting the grass very close to the edge of an irregular surface.
Shock sensor system. You do not have to remove all items such as garden furniture or toys from your garden: The mower detects obstacles and moves them around.
This model can detect and avoid objects, and at the same time, is able to cut the grass a few centimeters away from objects. Probably it is the best robot for lawn area maintenance in 2018.
Smart technology adapts the amount of mowing to the lawn’s growth rate, which enables spot mowing for area of longer grass, and guides the mower through narrow passages.
This robot is able to detect and avoid obstacles, but is not specified the distance to which the grass is cut around obstacles.
Multi-sensors detect obstacles and manoeuvre around them before continuing cutting on the calculated route
Just like the Husqvarna model, the robot above.
- This robot has a soft bumper in front to detect and avoid the obstacles.
In this category, I was expecting a wider range of robots that include technology trends such as solar charging systems (the robot works outdoors and can recharge the batteries using solar energy), GPS systems, and computer vision.
The GPS systems usually have the accurate to a few meters, and that’s why it is used wire to delimit the robot’s perimeter. But in the meantime, things have evolved and have begun to appear GPS systems with a few centimeter accuracy. This is such a system. Indeed, such a system can raise the cost of the robot by several hundred euros, and maybe this is also the reason why most robot manufacturers avoid this new system. In conclusion, 2018 is unlikely to bring a revolution in the autonomous navigation of garden robots without a perimeter delimitation system such as the well-known wired system.
I’ve found two robots that integrated technologies or systems from the ones listed above. One of these robots is planned for release this year. It’s a robot equipped with a solar recharging system. The robot is Automower Solar Hybrid and is built by Husqvarna.
The second model is also built by Husqvarna, it’s called Automower 430X and integrates a GPS navigation system.
There is a tendency to use recyclable materials in all industries. Broadly speaking, the robots made from recyclable materials should not be just a marketing concept, it should become a rule for all manufacturers. The lawnmower robots are represented in this category by a single robot built of recyclable materials. Yes, only one manufacturer has been thinking of producing a robot made of recyclable materials. Or at least that’s what I found. It is about – Automower Solar Hybrid – by Husqvarna.
A short conclusion
It’s a lot of work to have a maintained garden all year round. A lawn mower robot is not enough to replace the gardener. It solves only a part of everything that means maintaining a garden, but for many of us, such a robot makes the most boring work of all that is gardening.
In addition, a lawn mower robot is an effective solution for a lawn that looks good throughout the year.
We are still far away from having a robot capable of differentiating grass from other plants or navigate without the classical solution with wires. For all this, we need a change in the vision of the companies that build such robots.