Willow X outdoor robot designed to help tend your garden
We've already seen a number of attempts to realize a sci-fi vision of the future and put robot helpers in the home to make our lives easier. Belgium-based startup Eeve is also developing a personal robot pal, but Willow X's job is to help you keep your garden tidy.
Eeve's personal robot dream began with the autonomous Toadi lawnmower, which morphed into the Willow battery-electric roving gardener and there are now more than 1,700 examples in the wild throughout Europe.
Unlike many of the robot mowers on the market today, the Eeve creations don't use perimeter wires or GPS tracking but rely on vision camera systems, mapping and obstacle detection. The latest iteration of Willow is set up and controlled using a companion mobile app.
The Willow robot and app are ready to roll now, though the 2022 build quota has already been met and orders are now being taken for the next batch, which start at €2,990 (about US$3,150) and are expected to ship in January 2023.
But the Eeve team is already in the early development stage for the next evolution, the Willow X, which will feature two grippy wheels to the front and a stabilizing wheel to the rear, and a pair of extending multifunctional robot arms. There's still much work to be done, but the design team has a partially functioning prototype in the bag and has opened up the pre-order books.
So what will Willow X be capable of when the development and prototyping phases are completed? The introductory video (which we've embedded at the end) shows the blocky bot picking up fallen debris from the patio area and grabbing an attachment to vacuum up smaller bits Roomba-style before returning to its toolbox to take a mower to the lawn.
And though it doesn't appear to collect clippings in a bin, it does have one built in and can use its onboard camera and AI smarts to identify and remove weeds from the flower bed and place them in its storage bin for subsequent disposal on the compost heap.
The video even shows Willow X harvesting carrots from the veggie patch and collecting fallen walnuts, and then depositing its harvest in a box on the patio steps. At the end of its shift, it returns to its charging port to top the battery pack up ready for its next patrol.
The functioning prototype certainly looks the part but as you can see from the latest demo below, it's not yet battery powered, doesn't appear to have an onboard storage bin and the operation of its robot arms seems to be undertaken via wireless handheld remote.
The multifunctional arms will enable Willow X to undertake a number of tasks around the garden, and a mower tool will be included. It's expected to use a 4K camera and AI smarts, will be able to operate for up to six hours per charge and its motor is reckoned capable of tackling 25-percent inclines. It will also have rain detection built in so that it can return to base during a downpour, and basic scripting possibilities will be available to users.
The idea is to enable personal roboteers to program the bot to undertake various outdoor tasks, and plans call for the introduction of a dedicated Eeve learning platform to hone skillsets and get the most from the Willow experience.
The Eeve development team is aiming to have Willow X in production by the end of 2024, with deliveries to customers starting early the following year. A standard model carries a list price of €4,200 (~$4,400) but is up for pre-order now for €3,990. A Pro version with a bigger battery lists for €4,900 but can be pre-ordered for €4,690. The video below has more.
Product page: Willow X