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The Creator of the Roomba Just Launched a Lawn Mower

Mark Gurman
The Creator of the Roomba Just Launched a Lawn Mower

(Bloomberg) -- IRobot Corp., maker of the robotic Roomba vacuum cleaner, unveiled what co-founder Colin Angle calls its second act: a lawn mower.

The Terra, like its indoor sibling, operates on its own and will head back to a base station to recharge, even in mid-mow. It can be used with a smartphone app to schedule automatic mowing and programmed to cover specific parts of a yard. The robot has “smart mapping” technology, according to the company, to mow in efficient, straight, back-and-forth lines and doesn’t need boundary wires to keep it out of the flower beds.

Angle, also IRobot’s chief executive officer, said the lawn mover is the “most asked-for next robot in the history of time since the vacuum cleaner." He said he’s been fielding this question from customers ever since the Roomba’s debut: “When are you going to mow my lawn?” The Roomba first appeared in 2002, and an upgraded version in 2015 allows the robot to map a home’s interior.

Angle calls the Terra a "Roomba-sized opportunity." The vacuum robot is the company’s largest revenue driver. IRobot has sold more than 25 million of them worldwide. In the third quarter, total revenue amounted to $264.5 million.

The company’s robotic mop generates about 10 percent of revenues while its pool cleaner isn’t a "real long term revenue driver." Angle said lawn mower sales wouldn’t be material in 2019, but would become a growth leader starting in around 2021.

According to Allied Market Research, the market for robotic lawn mowers will be $1.4 billion by 2025, up from $538 million in 2017. Competitors include LG Electronics Inc., Honda Motor Co., and Robert Bosch GmbH. IRobot is based in Bedford, Massachusetts.

While the Terra lawn mower uses similar technology to the vacuum cleaner, Angle said it’s different in that it had to be designed for safety and to survive in a number of different weather conditions outside. The Terra includes standard lawn mower mechanisms like the cutting blades. "This is a legit, as-good or better type of mowing performance" compared to traditional lawn mowers, Angle said.

Angle showed the lawn mower to Bloomberg News at the CES technology conference in Las Vegas earlier in January. He said the company initially began working on it around 2004 or 2005, but put the project on hold to focus on the Roomba. The company then picked up work on the lawnmower again about four or five years ago, he said. IRobot also makes the Braava family of robot mops.

The Terra will go on sale first in Germany this year and will debut in the U.S. as part of a test program. It will go on sale in the U.S. and other countries in 2020, Angle said. The lawn mover will be priced “competitively,” Angle said. Robotic lawnmowers on the market today can range from $1,000 to more than $3,000.

IRobot is launching first in Germany because there is already a presence of robotic lawnmowers in the country, creating a comparison point for iRobot, Angle said. Also, the lawns in Germany are less complex than in the U.S.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Gurman in San Francisco at mgurman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Molly Schuetz, Alistair Barr

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