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Roomba inventor unveils a robot for weeding

The adorable gardening robot will hit yards this summer

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.

Via: MIT Technology Review