Honda's Miimo is a robot goat for your lawn

The automaker finally commercializes its vaunted robotics know-how for home use. The Miimo will start munching grass in Europe early next year.

Honda's humanoid ambassador Asimo poses with Miimo, a robotic lawnmower with a unique fan cutting system. Honda

Over a decade after unveiling its signature humanoid robot Asimo, Honda is finally releasing a home appliance with robotics chops: an automatic lawn mower called Miimo.

The droid trims lawns several times per week, cutting only 3 millimeters (0.12 inch) of grass at a time. The clippings are small enough so that they can be left on the lawn to act as natural fertilizer, the automaker said.

Miimo mows in a random or directional pattern, staying within an electronic perimeter but using its sensors to navigate the lawn, even on sloping areas. If its bump sensors encounter an obstacle, it will stop and then set off in another direction. It will automatically devote more time to patches of long grass.

The electric mower itself produces no CO2. When its lithium-ion battery is running low, it automatically returns to its charging station.

The cutting system is made up of flexible blades that bend on impact with a hard object, ensuring they won't shatter. A fan around the blades sucks grass toward the cutting edges, providing a more even trim.

As a security feature, it will automatically shut down and sound an alarm if it's lifted off the ground while cutting; a PIN is required to restart it. This is meant to dissuade thieves and prevent injuries.

The Miimo will launch in Europe in early 2013 and will come in two models, the 300 and the 500. The latter will be able to mow a lawn up to 3,000 square meters (32,000 square feet), a lot more than the Bosch Indego autonomous mower, but far less than the Husqvarna Automower 260 ACX .

Miimo automatically returns to its docking station. Honda

The Miimo models will be priced at 2,100 euros ($2,600) and 2,500 euros ($3,000), according to AP. They will be sold as a full-service package through Honda Lawn & Garden authorized dealers, which will install the recharging stations and offer maintenance and storage services.

Honda has been working on robotic technologies since 1986, developing industrial applications and debuting Asimo in 2000. While the humanoid is a marvel of engineering, it has never been sold and has been derided as impractical. The lawnmower, though, is a landmark in commercialization of that technology.

"Honda Miimo is the first commercial robotic product manufactured by the company for public use--representing its first step towards providing customers with robotic solutions to improve quality of life at home," the company said.

Honda has a lot of catching up to do if it hopes to compete with the likes of home robot overlord iRobot. Could a Honda robot vacuum cleaner be next?
 

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