There are some household chores that never get done. In a world where we're becoming time poor, stepping out to cut the grass might be one such chore.
All is not lost, however, because there are robots that want to do it for you. The cutely named Landroid from Worx is one such robot and it lives to cut your lawn.
But what is it like handing this horticultural chore over to an autonomous helper? We've been living with Landroid to find out if it's rise of the robots.
Boundaries are important in any relationship, even if the subject of your affection is a robot lawnmower. That's not because Landroid will run off and stamp all over your flowers, but because without a boundary, it'll do nothing at all.
In this case, it's all about laying out a physical boundary that the robot will stick to. Unlike robot vacuum cleaners, you don't just give Landroid free roam of your garden, you have to establish a perimeter within which it operates.
The instructions are rather daunting in this regard, as you have to peg out a wire along the ground and connect it to the Landroid charging base. A light current runs through this wire, letting the robot find the charger, but also defining the boundaries within which it can operate.
In reality, once you've found a convenient parking place for the charger, it's a pretty simple if somewhat time consuming task. You get 180m of green plastic coated wire in the box and 200 plastic pegs to hammer into the ground. These pegs are designed to keep the wire tight and flat, so they don't present a trip hazard, look ugly, or risk getting cut by Landroid.
The theory is that the grass will then grow around it and the wire will vanish. On day one of installation we found there were places where the wire was practically invisible, so don't worry about it spoiling your garden, although there are obvious rules to laying it out.
You can bury the wire to keep it protected, although you might want to lay it out first, ensuring it provides the best possible boundary for your garden with a few weeks of test cutting before committing to burying it.
The layout is pretty simple, although you need to complete this wire circuit to establish the boundary to get Landroid to work. If your house sits in the middle of a patch of land with lawn on all sides, there there's no problem. But if you're in a typical semi with a side path and a gate, then getting it to cut front and back gardens might prove impossible.
Landroid won't cross the wire boundary, but it will centre on it and follow it, so it will cut up to 20cm beyond it. Alongside a concrete path, for example, there's nothing to stop you running the wire down the edge, just to ensure the lawn is cut right up to the edges.
Word the to wise: leave some slack at the end of your wire, because you might find you want to give some corners more space, or you might find that you could go closer to the boundary. With no spare, you'd either have to replace all the wire, or splice in a new piece. You can always trim off the slack once you're 100 per cent happy.
Landroid goes to work
Once set-up, Landroid will work autonomously. There's a programmable schedule for it to work from, but it comes pre-programmed with a 7am cut by default. The cutting time depends on the size of the garden and this can be changed in the settings.
It's important to recognise what Landroid is aiming to achieve. This isn't a once-monthly Sunday morning cut. It's about regular maintenance, trimming little and often to ensure that your lawn is never overgrown.
There's a dial under the top cover that will let you change the height of the cut. We opted for the shortest, but like most other mowers, you have the option depending on the condition and style of your garden.
One of the surprising things about Landroid is that it isn't noisy. You won't hear it roaring away in the garden like you will your neighbour's petrol mower. It's much more discrete, because it's a lighter touch than the hack-all monster with huge spinning machetes underneath you used to use.
This lighter touch also explains the lack of grass collection box. It drops the cuttings back down to mulch feed your lawn, rather than sunshine-starve it to death.
Dealing with tricky conditions
If you've seen a robot vacuum cleaner working a room, you'll probably guess how Landroid operates too. It detects the boundary area first of all, then trundles until it hits the edge, it then turns, and trundles until it hits the edge again. It's not going to give you a neat stripe and we'd say it is random in its path.
But when Landroid hits an obstacle, it will take avoidance action. The top black section of the mower is sensitive, so when it bumps into something, it will reassess. That means turning a bit and trying again. Using this method it can skirt around solid obstacles like a raised bed or your brick BBQ.
However, there are all sorts of things that will present themselves as obstacles for Landroid to avoid, like wayward branches. We routed Landroid close to a compost heaps with some sizable branch cuttings on it, which it was not happy with.
Landroid will also struggle if it encounters things like brambles. We set the boundary close to some intruding brambles hoping it would devour them, but instead they captured our humble little robot. Some reversing and turning later, Landroid stopped and reported with a beep that it was trapped.
That's not too common an experience, however, as in times of trouble, Landroid will often be able to back out and head off in a different direction.
There's also a rain sensor, so that if it starts raining, or you turn on a sprinkler, Landroid will stop the work and head back home. It's weatherproof - although you're advised to put it away in the winter due to cold - so it can take the odd rain shower.
Once the rain has stopped, Landroid will wait for surface water to soak away before it resumes cutting. You can also alter the length of this delay to allow for different rain patterns.
Landroid: Meet the family
Dealing with regular environmental conditions is one thing, but the chaos of pets and children is entirely different. We've mentioned how Landroid will stop if it bumps into objects and find another route. That works for prominent things and we found it happy to turn away from a large paddling pool, but a rogue flip-flop, Octonauts magazine or collection of loom bands will be decimated.
Children, of course, are a different problem from their ancillaries. Any robot is going to be a point of interest and there is a set of spinning blades on the bottom of this one. As soon as the mower is lifted, however, it sounds the alarm and stops cutting. We've not tested the various conditions under which a child might or might not have digits severed, but we'd use the same precautions as with any lawnmower.
Then you have that boundary wire. On the first night after installation, we found the wire severed in places. We suspect - due to the proximity of accompanying faeces - that this was local fox cubs chewing on the wire. It could be the squirrels or the cat too. But a break in the wire means that Landroid won't run, as it can't detect the work area it's allowed into.
That break was a simple fix - adding in some new wire in the gap, twisting the ends together and taping up before and pegging it securely - but the fidelity of that boundary wire is going to govern the Landroid experience. That's perhaps an argument for burying the wire once you're certain you have the best layout.
Charging and security
There's a power pack on the end of the cable for the charging base but that needs to be kept dry, so we've been connecting Landroid to an indoors plug and running the cable through a window (a hole in the wall will do the trick too and that'll keep things more secure). There's 15m of cable on the base, so it shouldn't be too hard to accomodate the base outside.
Landroid takes a couple of hours to charge itself up and this is all handled autonomously. When the charge gets low, Landroid will stop cutting and follow the boundary wire back to the base charger - just like a robot vacuum cleaner in that regard.
If Landroid becomes trapped, it will eventually stop trying to escape and beep to let you know that there's been a problem. The LCD panel on the top of the mower will reflect the status, including alerting you to problems with the boundary wire - it'll say it's outside the working area if the boundary is broken for example. There's also a home button so you can send Landroid back with a press; equally, you can press a button to send it off to mow the lawn at any time.
Landroid lives outdoors by necessity. It's a resident of your garden and it costs the best part of a grand, which might be a concern for some: you wouldn't leave you £1000 bike unlocked, but Landroid needs the freedom to roam if it's to do its job.
The solution? Landroid comes with a PIN feature. This will let you lock your robotic lawnmower meaning that anyone who comes and steals it won't be able to use it. That's perhaps a minor consolation, but you'd still be without your mower. It also sounds an alarm to alert you - which is the loudest thing it does.
There's no shortage of interest in robot lawnmowers. Easing the burden of that irregular lawnmowing is often the incentive, although maintenance of a lawn is also a benefit. If your garden is a reasonable size and fairly uncluttered, then Landroid might work very well for you.
If your garden is small, split into sections, littered with planting beds, trees or awkward corners, then Landroid might struggle. If you have lots of garden toys or children prone to leaving things lying around, then you'd have to put in a lot of time to cleaning up to let Landroid work - similar sentiments to the shortcomings of robotic vacuum cleaners around the home, but extended to the garden in this case.
But given the space to roam, and given a clear lawn to cut, Landroid really is a happy little garden companion. It's expensive at £999, so likely to only be considered by those who have the perfect garden for it. If you do, then there's nothing more satisfying that opening the curtains on a summer's morning to see Landroid happily cutting your lawn for you. We've become rather affectionate of our robotic buddy.