The TrimBot2020 project will research the underlying robotics and vision technologies and prototype 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 will be built on a modified Bosch Indego robot lawnmower, will be 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, will be capable of trimming flat surface hedges and shaped box-wood bushes.

Trimbot in the garden

Trimbot in the garden

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

Achieving this will require an exciting combination of robotics and 3D computer vision research and innovation activities. Original developments will be required for sensing semi-regular surfaces with physical texture (overgrown formerly `smooth’ plant surfaces), coping with outdoor lighting variations, self-localising and navigating over slightly rough terrain and around obstacles with a consumer-grade vehicle ({\it i.e.} not a highly engineered Mars-rover), visual servoing to align vehicles near to slightly moving target plants, visual servoing to align leaf and branch cutters with a compliant surface, and innovative engineering to deliver all of these capabilities on a battery-powered small vehicle.

While the TRL of some of the individual components is already near levels TRL 5, the total trimming robot concept is near to TRL 2. Through the activities of the project, we are aiming for TRL 5/6. Partner Bosch already markets the autonomous lawn mower that will be used for the vehicle base, and is expecting to undertake further development and engineering following the project towards a new generation of gardening robots.

Why is this proposal exciting? The project will explore a new robot application, has an explicit route to market exploitation by an experienced manufacturer (Bosch) and a probable market, 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.

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