Robots that traverse desert race courses or explore distant planets are undoubtedly cool, but ultimately we're all hoping that engineers don't lose sight of the real goal for such capable machines. We want them to do the stuff we don't want to do. For instance, vacuum and scrub our floors.
Now, though, scientists at Denmark's Aarhus University are designing a robot to carry out one of the most mundane and annoying outdoor tasks: weeding. The group is modifying an existing lawn-mowing robot, the controversial Spider, so that it can use simple mechanical weeding tools, and even lasers for frying the pesky growths. The new robot, called the Hortibot, would still need someone to operate it, but would be capable of doing the work of ten people. It could also be equipped with micro-sprayers that would drastically cut the amount of chemicals applied to kill the weeds, reducing the potential for environmental damage. Don't go putting one on your birthday list, though. The current price has been reported to be somewhere between $55,000 and $71,000.—Gregory Mone