iRobot brings its Roomba tech to the backyard with the Terra autonomous mower

It sort of feels inevitable: iRobot, the manufacturer of the Roomba robot vacuum and Braava robot mops, always said there were other frontiers to conquer. Now iRobot is taking on the tedious chore of mowing the lawn with a new robot lawnmower called Terra. How much would an extra 70 hours of free time per year be worth to you?

Devices like Roomba work so well because of iRobot’s proprietary Smart Mapping technology, which allows its little robot cleaners to memorize the contours of a room and clean accordingly. Smart mapping is crucial, iRobot vice president of technology Chris Jones told Digital Trends recently in an exclusive interview. Consumers are lazy.

“The average consumer is not going to spend the time to program the dozens and dozens of logical rules to allow the motion sensors to orchestrate lights within their home to give them that experience.” The company believes its mapping tech can help enable the smart home — and in this case, the smart lawn. iRobot is applying that same technology to the Terra robot mower by combining the mapping software with a newly developed wireless communication system and new stand-alone beacons that help define the perimeter of a front or back yard.

Where Roomba can clean nearly randomly because of the nature of carpet, Terra is designed to mimic traditional mowing patterns, cutting efficiently in straight, back-and-forth lines that convince your neighbors you have a green thumb.

iRobot also promises that users will have total control over where the robot goes; it will stay off the sidewalk, out of the road, and away from your flower beds. Homeowners can use the iRobot Home app to customize their robot with programmable cutting times, grass height, and more.

However, much like Roomba, Terra is almost completely self-sufficient. Not only will it remember where it is in the yard and how much it still needs to mow, if the robot’s battery runs low, it simply plugs itself into its base to recharge and resume mowing once the battery is back on track.

“iRobot is building an ecosystem of robots and technologies that help people do more both inside and outside of the home,” Robot CEO Colin Angle said in a statement. “The robot mower segment is well established in EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) and has tremendous room for growth in other markets, including North America. With its ease of use and premium mowing features, Terra is poised to give consumers a whole new way to think about how they take care of their lawn.”

The Terra robot mower will be available for sale first in Germany in 2019, although iRobot is also planning a beta program in the United States this year.

No word yet on price but robot lawn mowing is one of the rare markets where iRobot doesn’t have a lock on the business. Honda, Worx, Husqvarna, and a handful of other manufacturers already have models on the market that range in price from about $600 to more than $2,800.

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