If you were hoping to set iRobot’s robotic lawn mower, Terra, free on your lawn this summer, we have bad news. The company, which also makes Roomba vacuums, announced yesterday that it is suspending plans for Terra indefinitely due to COVID-19.
iRobot unveiled Terra early last year. It looked something like a heavy-duty Roomba, and unlike other robotic lawn mowers, which require boundary wires, it allowed users to mark the perimeter with wireless beacons. The app offered more control, with settings for grass height and specific off-limits areas. The bot could handle inclement weather and hilly terrain, and it would return to its docking station when it was low on power.
The company originally committed to launches in Germany and the US, but it hadn’t set a date or a price. Based on the competition (Husqvarna's Automower 435X costs £4,400, or around $5,500), it probably would have been pretty pricey. Now, we may never know.
In its first-quarter financial report, iRobot revealed that its revenue fell 19 percent, about $45 million, compared to the first quarter of last year due to the pandemic. As a result, the company has eliminated 70 positions and furloughed another 14 workers. It expects its near-term revenue to be “challenged” as retailers work down existing inventory, prioritize essential products and face reduced hours and foot traffic, as well as temporary store closures.
Despite the setbacks, iRobot has managed to donate thousands of masks from its manufacturing facilities to healthcare workers. It also participated in a project to repurpose Roomba filters for use in personal protective equipment and supported a third-party effort to retrofit Roomba in Italian hospitals with a tripod and phone to connect patients and their families.
If there is any silver lining to Terra's suspension, it’s that you’ll probably have plenty of time to mow your lawn this summer because you won’t be able to leave home. Plus, mowing the lawn can be great exercise, which we’ll all need more of in the coming months.