Trimbot robotic gardener mows the lawn and tends the roses

Trimbot robotic gardener mows the lawn and tends the roses
Trimbot pottering about the garden
Trimbot pottering about the garden
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Trimbot pottering about the garden
Trimbot pottering about the garden

If your roses are getting a bit untidy, fear not, because an international team of researchers led by the University of Edinburgh has developed a prototype robot gardener to do the job. Called Trimbot, it can not only do a spot of mowing but also prune roses and trim bushes.

Agricultural robots have been garnering a lot of attention in recent years, but autonomous devices for picking strawberries or tirelessly tending vast fields of plants 24 hours a day with individual attention is a bit far from the experience of the average person, whose last experience on a farm was probably visiting a corn maze. However, a robot gardener is something anyone with a backyard can relate to.

In addition, something like Trimbot faces some interesting challenges. Gardens are not only very human environments, which poses all manner of navigation challenges, but they also require a very precise, delicate touch if a rose bush isn't to end up looking as if it's been trimmed with a machete.

Based on a Bosch robotic lawnmower, Trimbot is aimed at one day creating a machine that can help maintain communal spaces, act as a robotic farmhand, and help the elderly and disabled tend their own gardens. To learn more about how to accomplish this, the battery-powered prototype is equipped with five pairs of stereo cameras for 3D mapping and a flexible robotic arm with a variety of tools.

Before it starts work, Trimbot is programmed with a rough map of the garden that the computer vision system then refines to help the robot navigate. In its computer brain are sets of algorithms that tell it things like what the ideal bush looks like to help it with trimming or how to prune roses by locating the exact spot on the plant stem to cut.

The hope is one day to install the new technology in a future line of Bosch’s automated lawnmowers.

"Getting the robot to work reliably in a real garden was a major feat of engineering," says Professor Bob Fisher of the School of Informatics. "The eight partner teams developed new robotics and 3D computer vision technology to enable it to work outdoors in changing lighting and environmental conditions."

Source: University of Edinburgh

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