Robomow Chops Grass So You Don't Have To

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A few months ago, I moved to an apartment with a backyard, and I was excited about barbecuing. But one thing stood between me and my kebabs: an unruly thicket of grass all over the yard.

I had never mowed a lawn, and I must say I wasn't thrilled about pushing a machine with rapidly spinning blades under a scalding sun. Then I found something that would do it for me.

No, it's not a goat. It's Robomow.

Made by the Israeli firm Friendly Robotics, it promises a â''beautifully manicured lawn effortlessly.â'' I liked the â''effortlesslyâ'' part, so on a sunny afternoon, I unleashed the robot on my yard.

I had already pegged a wire, included in the package, around the edges of my lawn, so that the robot could know the edges of its domain. After setting the mowing height, I pressed the Go button.

The 35.2-kilogram, tortoiselike machine began to zigzag, to the amusement of my neighbor's cats. At first, I thought it was missing some swaths, but later it returned to finish the job.

The robot's blades, spinning at 5800 revolutions per minute, chop the clipped grass so fine that you don't need to rake the lawn afterward. Password protection keeps kids from unleashing the machine themselves, and sensors in the bumpers stop it if someone gets in the way.

The mower did a great job overall, but it missed some grass at the edges along the fence. I took care of that by guiding the robot with its manual controller. My neighbors peppered me with questions, but they were disappointed by the price tag. The RL1000 model (for lawns of up to 2000 square meters) costs US $2000, and the RL850 (for 1500 m2) costs $1500. The RL1000 can be programmed to run at a preset time, returning to its docking station to recharge.

Friendly Robotics says the RL1000's power is equivalent to that of a 5.5â''horsepower gas mower. Its lead-acid batteries last 2.5 to 4 hours per charge, enough to cover 400 to 600 m2. A large lot could require several recharges. And because of its random zigzagging, it takes longer than if a brain were guiding a mower. But why should I care? I'm busy at the grill, flipping burgers.

You can buy a Robomow for US $1500 at http://www.friendlyrobotics.com.

From Spectrum's annual roundup of gadgets and gizmos for the holidays.

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Automaton

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