Roomba's Lawn Mowing Robot Has Some Explaining To Do, According To Angry Astronomers

04/17/2015 05:00 pm ET | Updated Apr 21, 2015
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A robot that completes basic household chores might sound like a great idea, but a recent innovation in automated lawn mowing has some people up in arms.

The developers of Roomba are likely developing a robotic lawnmower to join their suite of robotic floor, gutter and pool cleaners, as reported by technology news site IEEE Spectrum.

The concept is nothing new: Robotic lawnmowers are very much a thing, from this sleek little number that looks like a sports car to the LawnBott, which has a more vintage-tractor vibe. Looking at their past designs, we have to imagine the Roomba developer's lawn robot would be more compact. (After all, the indoor Roomba isn't much bigger than a cat.)

What's different, however is this: most robotic lawnmowers require homeowners to bury electronic wires around their lawns so the mower knows where to go, but according to FCC filings, the "Roomba lawn mower" would instead use easy-to-install stakes to keep the mower on track. Ooh.

Turns out astronomers are not so starstruck about that. Wired reports that the "lawn Roomba" beacons would use the same radio frequency that some telescopes use to monitor outer space, which some say could interfere with the telescope's effectiveness.

An astronomy group has gone head-to-head with the Roomba developers in an FCC comment forum, asking for stipulations to ensure robot frequencies don't get too close to their observatory sites.

IRobot, the company behind Roomba, argued in a statement that its developers believe there's only an "infinitesimal likelihood" lawn mower stakes will impact radio astronomy measurements. "We trust that the FCC will make the right decision," the company said.

Hey, maybe everyone could just stop fighting and DIY their own automated lawnmower. Who needs technology, anyway?

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