Gardens can be a double-edged sword: when they're thriving, so is the work required to keep them in shape. A new autonomous robot helper by the name of Kobi, however, can take the edge off by mowing the lawn, collecting leaves and clearing snow for you.
Of course, robotic lawnmowers have been earning their crust for some time now, and adding snow-clearing functionality isn't a new concept either. The beauty of Kobi, though, is that it has three strings to its bow and is designed for use in all seasons.
Kobi comprises a rear base unit and three accompanying modules. These are connected to the base depending on what type of garden work is required. There's a snow blower module with which Kobi will remove snow by sucking it up and shooting it to a dumping spot, a lawn module for cutting grass, and a leaf module for collecting leaves and depositing them in a set location.
The robot reportedly achieves all of this autonomously, and is able to get around a user's yard at speeds of up to 2 mph (3 km/h). To navigate, it uses a combination of GPS positioning, cameras and ultrasonic sensors. This, says its designers, affords it "inch-level positioning accuracy," but also allows it to detect objects and stop if need be. What's more, it can even plan when to do work itself based on the weather forecast, to which it connects via the user's home Wi-Fi network or a local mobile data network, depending on which network is strongest.
A lithium-ion battery powers Kobi, with ranges of up to 7 ac (2 ha) when using the lawn module, up to 3 ac (1 ha) when using the leaf module and up to 0.37 ac (0.15 ha) when using the snow module. When the battery is running low, Kobi will make its way back to its docking station for recharging, before continuing with the work at hand. A full charge is said to take between two and four hours.
In order to navigate a user's garden, Kobi must first be shown its perimeter and where there are any obstacles. It must also be shown where to dump snow and leaves. This is done using an accompanying mobile app, which will be available for iOS and Android when it launches and via which Kobi can be "taught" these things. In the event that a user moves house, the app can be used to reconfigure Kobi.
The app is also used to control Kobi and allows users to set the robot going or to stop it, as well as to schedule times for it to get to work. For security, Kobi is protected by anti-theft mechanisms, which include an alarm that sounds in the event that someone tries to steal it and an auto-disable mode that can only be circumvented using a pin-code set by the owner.
Prices for Kobi begin at US$3,999. It is expected to be made available to the general public in the north-east of the US from early 2017.
The video below provides an introduction to the Kobi robot.