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Three brothers create a lawn mower you can control via Google

A few days ago, a friend tweeted that he wanted a robot lawn mower. Little did he know, a trio of brothers recently invented just such a thing.

Doug, Dan, and David Leonard won the grand prize at Provo, Utah’s StartFEST Gigabit Hackathon on September 5. Presented by Google Fiber and DevMountain. During the 24-hour event, the three software engineers came up with “Google Mows My Lawn.” Using a Ryobi electric lawn mower, the Leonard brothers added two smartphones, special wheels, and a Raspberry Pi. A third smartphone uses Provo’s Google Gigabit Fiber to remotely control the mower with commands, using the cameras from the attached phones to make sure nothing’s in the machine’s path.

They issued directional commands to the Raspberry Pi via a chat room, which would interpret them and react accordingly. “It’s like text message activated,” Doug Leonard tells Fox 13. “So you’re sending messages in a chat room and those messages then drive it.”

Because they put it together in a day, there’s still some work the brothers want to do on the device. “And as soon as we have the logic in there so it recharges on its own, and won’t drive off and chase my neighbor’s dog, then we’ll push it live and, you know, let the Internet community mow our lawn,” Doug Leonard said.

The brothers have already put up instructions on Instructables, so you can see exactly how they did it. It’s a pretty cool DIY project, if you have the know-how and inclination. The rest of us may have to wait a while, because iRobot recently received FCC approval for its own robot lawn mower (yes, the FCC has jurisdiction over communication-controlled lawnmowers). It will mark a departure from current machines like the RS 630 from Robomow, which requires owners to put wires around their yard to create boundaries for the mower.