IRobot’s Terra robot lawn mower cuts the grass while you relax
For some, mowing the lawn is intensely satisfying. For others, it’s a time-consuming chore. If the latter sounds like you, take heart. Help is on the way from iRobot, the company that gave us the Roomba robot vacuum. Its latest creation, the iRobot Terra, is a grass-cutting robot designed to autonomously trim your turf. According to iRobot, the Terra will be as smart and as easy to use as a Roomba.
iRobot’s entry into the automated lawn care space is significant. It’s another signal this market is growing. One report predicts that sales of these products will exceed $2 billion (roughly £1.52 billion/AU$2.79 billion) by 2022. The sophistication of robot mowers is also on the rise. Recently, multiple manufacturers announced that their models will soon work with Google Assistant and Alexa. They’ll boast better navigation too, thanks to onboard GPS.
Rugged enough for outside
Much like standard robot floor cleaners, the Terra has a wheeled body that’s round and flat. Likewise, the machine sits docked at its home base until it’s ready for action. As with a Roomba, the Terra’s base supplies power to the robot’s rechargeable battery.
The Terra, however, is made to live outdoors. A pair of thick rear wheels, complete with knobby tires, help the mower negotiate challenging environments outside. According to iRobot, the Terra can handle hills and uneven terrain without any issues, and it says it’s rugged enough to tolerate the elements.
A smarter lawn trimmer
One big difference between the Terra and other robot lawn mowers is the iRobot model’s navigation system. Competing products such as the Robomow, and Honda Miio require boundary wires to keep them away from off-limit areas. These wires act as an electronic fence, and must be physically installed throughout your property.
Instead of wires, the Terra relies on a series of wireless beacons to triangulate its position, similar to those that come with iRobot’s Roombas. You’ll need to drive at least two of the thin, rod-shaped beacons into the ground to provide the Terra mower with a point of reference. Then you manually drive the Terra, via its mobile app, around the edges of your lawn. This helps the robot create a digital map of its surroundings.
During this initial setup process, you also instruct Terra about areas it should avoid. Examples include flower and garden beds, furniture, or decorative objects. That done, Terra should be good to go — no wires needed.
Because it remembers the maps you create, iRobot says you don’t need to start a mow from the dock. You can also pick up the Terra and drop it anywhere within your lawn. The robot will automatically return to the charging station when its battery runs low, or after the mowing job is complete.
Will it mow like a pro?
Enhanced navigation doesn’t just mean faster, more efficient mowing. iRobot says the Terra will mow in straight lines like a person would. As a result, the robot will cut grass into those attractive stripes your neighbors (and the HOA) will appreciate. Thanks to electronically adjustable cutting heights, you can set the Terra to mow high in some places and low in others.
iRobot hasn’t fleshed out some of the key details for Terra yet. The company said it should be able to tackle the size of the typical American lawn, but it declined to give specifics about the typical charge time, or run time for Terra’s battery. The Terra’s total coverage area, along with the precise grade of hill it can handle also remain a mystery.
iRobot also hasn’t disclosed exact pricing for the Terra yet. The company did tell me that it should be, ‘similar in price to other lawn-mowing robots’. That’s a bit discouraging, since the price range for the category at present goes from $900 to $10,000 or so. That’s considerably more than you’ll pay for a gas or electric push mower, or for the cost of a mowing service.
Theft is also particular concern for an expensive device that stays outside. iRobot didn’t sound worried when I asked about the possibility. The company said cryptically that, ‘stealing a Terra would be a disappointing experience for someone who might do it,’ although they didn’t elaborate further.
Terra rolls into Germany first
Getting your hands on a Terra will take some patience. iRobot plans to sell the first batch of Terra mowers in Germany exclusively by Q3 2019. There will be a limited, invitation-only beta program in the US, soon after its German launch. According to iRobot, the Terra should hit the global market broadly in 2020.