Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Robomower Rant

As you may have guessed, we at the Snarkolepsy household are early adopters of technology, especially home robotics. Roombas, Scoobas, Lawn mowers, gutter cleaners, we've got 'em.

And I'm generally pretty forgiving of version 1.0 of any product. I accept that the first version is going to have issues. But I expect version 2.0 of the product to be noticeably better. e.g. the current generation of Roomba is noticeably better than the earlier versions.

Which brings us to robot lawn mowers, specifically the Friendly Robotics robomowers.

We initially purchased an RL550 model (which we named "Moe") back in 2004 (read about it here)

When Moe died in 2008, we upgraded to a later model (an RL850, named "Shemp")

Sadly, there's no improvement in the usability of the later model. It works exactly the same as the previous one, it just costs more.

The biggest issue is manual mowing. There are always places where the mower misses spots b/c of lawn obstacles (trees, walls, ditches, etc), and you have to go back and drive the mower manually around these spots to get them. The problem is the mechanism provided to pilot the mower manually is something that looks like an Xbox controller. You have to use a joystick/thumbpad to steer while pushing two other buttons simultaneously to mow. No one who has ever tried to do this can possibly think it's a good idea. This stupid controller gives me a hand cramp every time I have to use it.

I'm not convinced that the people at Friendly Robotics actually ever use the product they sell, b/c otherwise they would have fixed this stupid system before releasing new models.

And all the other robot-mower makers use a similar system too (some kind of remote control joystick)

Hey Robot Mower makers - you know what would be better? Handle bars! Just like a regular lawnmower. When I have to run it manually, just let me use it like a regular mower.


  1. It is weird to talk to u this way - but, you are quite the stellar tagger.

  2. Mrs. S., a bit lazy with the tags.

    While you were talking about manual mowing, I was actually thinking in my head that there must be a handle you put in or something. Never would I have imagined a RC. But I guess I have little imagination when it comes to robotics.

    BTW, you and Mrs. S. have very similar witing styles, sometimes it's not until I get to the end of the post that I figure out it's The Mr.

  3. I think I'm subconsciously imitating her style, b/c I'm not used to posting.

  4. He gets a lot more sleep than I do. So, once he hits his stride, it will be easier to tell.

    And - I suck on tags. One day when I'm not doing anything I should go back and tag stuff.

  5. Yeah! the version 1.0 of any product has to be forgiven because the manufacturers are still learning
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