It's a Roomba, For Your Lawn

Coming soon to a lawn near you...

Posted by Katie Marks | G+ | Mar 04, 2014
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Photo: Brent Boucheron/Flickr

Do you hate mowing the lawn? You're not alone -- it's one of the most dreaded, feared, and loathed tasks in my neighborhood, and I suspect we're not the only ones. Mowing the lawn is tedious, time-consuming, sweat-inducting, and filthy. Worse yet, those little blades of fiendish grass seem to stick to you for an eternity after finishing the job, making you constantly come over all itchy just when you think you got rid of the last of them.

Some people like to go the riding mower route for more comfort, but that's really only a feasible option if you have a big, uncomplicated lawn and garden. At my house, where the garden and the yard blend with each other in curves, fits, and spurts, a riding mower wouldn't fit in most places without damaging the plants, and the yard is just too small to justify using one even if I wanted to try. (Though I have thought about it, watching that guy down the road smugly enjoy his on a hot day after I've spent two hours trudging behind a spewing, sputtering push mower -- the sight also makes me wonder if I can get a San Francisco plumber to built me a portable outdoor shower to drizzle cool water on me while I work.)

My hatred of lawn mowing explains why I'm really interested in the EcoMow, a concept project with a lot of potential.

1. It's robotic. Synching with Google Maps, EcoMow neatly traces the boundaries of your lawn (and the neighbors', if you're feeling generous). No more pushing a mower around! It's like a Roomba for your lawn! Tell me that's not a piece of good news -- imagine kicking back on the porch with a glass of lemonade and watching it go.

2. It fuels itself. This device runs on biomass, which it collects as it mows the lawn. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a perpetual motion machine, but it's pretty self-sustaining. Better yet, depending on the size of the area mowed, it can also produce biomass pellets as a byproduct to fuel other devices. Not too shabby for a lawnmower.

Now, here's the bad news: when the developers sat down to crunch the math on their project, they found that producing a residential version just wasn't feasible right now, because the return on investment would be too low. They're focusing on a prototype of a commercial version that will handle large fields so they can perfect the technology and get the machine up and running (so to speak). Once they're satisfied, they can turn to designing smaller models, which will probably pretty costly to start out with. might be a few years before I can enjoy an EcoMow of my own, and the same goes for you, unless you happen to live in the middle of a giant field. Have you considered calling a landscaping company to take some of those mowing duties off your back?

Katie Marks writes for

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