When robots take over the world, at least they’ll keep our yards tidy. Inventor Joe Jones—creator of the Roomba—is poised to launch a waterproof, solar-powered gardening robot in the summer of 2017 through his new startup, Franklin Robotics.
When released, the $250 Tertill will automatically cut weeds, upload information about plant health to a user’s smartphone, and scare off critters that might otherwise try to eat the garden’s bounty. The round bot’s four-wheel drive and inward-tilting wheels help it move over rocks and bumpy terrain. Sensors also enable it to avoid obstacles like larger rocks or fences.
A built-in mini “weed whacker” cuts down any insurgent weeds. But how does it know a weed from a begonia? The answer is simpler than you might think. Jones decided that machine-vision technology just wasn’t up to the challenge of proper plant identification. Rather, the Tertill is programmed to just cut down any plant that’s shorter than its one-inch bumper. Seedlings should be protected by a little metal fence, but anything else that fits under the Tertill’s shell is judged to be a weed and is subsequently whacked.
Jones hopes to eventually develop a whole fleet of specialized robots that will keep gardens thriving without too much human effort.