You’re going to look like an eccentricity, but I have the feeling that my roomba secretly plans to conquer the world. Not her alone, of course. The Roombas are one of the most popular robots in the world, perhaps the true democratization of consumer robotics and since 2002 has sold millions of units. All a potential mini-army.
Luckily, for now, they are somewhat clumsy, have difficulty coordinating with each other and can not leave the house without getting stuck in the first tunnel. But, Joe Jones, the man behind the Roomba, is committed to creating a self – sufficient robot, waterproof and designed to clear weeds from every garden.
The roomba has a new stepbrother
Joe Jones had the idea of roomba in 1989, for a robotic Olympic Games held by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was not easy, took a decade to start working on the project and several years shows with iRobot’s first commercial robot.
In 2008, Jones got fed up and decided to vacuum what I thought was the next frontier: robotize agriculture. He quit his job at iRobot and founded Harvest Automation. The idea was to automate the agricultural harvest and thus bring the productivity of the field to the next level. The sales did not arrive and the chastity was very sounded in the robotic world.
So Jones decided to go back to what he did best. There are some companies working with robotic lawn mowers or automatic brush cutters, but there is no serious offer for the end consumer. And so Jones founded Franklin Robotics to create the garden roomba: Tertill.
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An off-road robot, but limited
Tertill operates autonomously and uses solar energy, sensors to identify obstacles and thread trimmer. The robot is designed to survive in the open air and uses four wheels to solve one of the fundamental problems: moving on steep and unstable terrain. In the videos, it seems to move well, but for now it is unclear how it will be handled in real gardens.
Of course, for now Tertill pruned “by eye”. That is, it cannot differentiate normal weed plants. At present, there are no affordable devices to do so. So use a different (and quite original) approach: when it detects a plant less than two and a half centimeters, it assumes it is a weed and cuts it. Instead, it moves away from larger plants.
It is a good idea for a device thinking to be permanently in the garden, but is, to little thought, insufficient (and requires the use of ‘internal plots’ to isolate plants in the process of growth). Moreover, Tertill and control devices want to become a data center garden analyzing real – time status of plants and soil quality.
It will begin shipping in 2017 with a price of $ 250, but Tertill is just the beginning. Franklin Robotics wants to develop robots that give individual attention to plants: many small robots providing micro-nutrients, pruning branches, chasing away animals or eradicating pests. It sounds good, but even on paper it seems limited. We will see if it is the new revolution of the home (and of the ecological agriculture).