The TrimBot2020 project researches the underlying robotics and vision technologies and prototypes the next generation of intelligent gardening consumer robots. The project is focused on the development of intelligent outdoor hedge, rose and bush trimming capabilities, allowing the robot to navigate over varying garden terrain, approaching hedges to restore them to their ideal tidy state, and approaching topiary-styled bushes to restore them to their ideal shape. The new robot il built on a modified Bosch Indego robot lawnmower, is capable of navigating using a rough user-defined garden map to approach hedges and bushes, and then, with a novel electric hedge cutter in conjunction with the 3D scene data, is capable of trimming flat surface hedges and shaped box-wood bushes.

The final project demonstration has shown the robot navigating, in a garden with variety of surface terrains, around typical garden obstacles to approach hedges and bushes, after which it trimmed them to the desired shape.

Achieving this garden application required a combination of robotics and 3D computer vision research and innovation activities. Original developments in 3D sensing of semi-regular surfaces with physical texture (overgrown plant surfaces), coping with outdoor lighting variations, identifying different objects and types of surfaces, self-localising and navigating around obstacles, visual servoing to potentially moving target plants, leaves and branches, and innovative engineering were required to deliver all this on a small battery-powered consumer-grade vehicle.

Why is this project exciting? The project explored a new robot application, has an explicit route to market exploitation by an experienced manufacturer (Bosch), is built upon Bosch’s proven robot lawnmower technology, and has a great team with experienced plant roboticists and world-leading computer vision researchers led by a very experienced EC project coordinator.