According to a number of FCC filings, robotic vacuum maker iRobot is working on an automatic lawnmower – and they’re irking radio astronomers. The project, which is still under wraps, uses low power radio beacons to delineate the corners of your yard, ensuring your robotic mower doesn’t scoot into the back forty. Unlike other automatic systems – which use wires or barriers to keep the robots corralled – the beacons emit in the 6240-6740 MHz range.
This, according to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), is used to spot methanol – “interstellar wood alcohol” – in space, the presence of which means a star is being born. The FCC even states that “all practicable steps shall be taken to protect the radio astronomy service from harmful interference.”
The best part? The NRAO and its astronomers are talking back to iRobot in the FCC comments. For example:
Given that Colin Angle, founder of iRobot, has a MS in Computer Science and a deep background in artificial intelligence and robotics, it’s clear that this is a battle of the megaminds. It will be interesting to see both the new product – purported to be called the iRobot RLM – and how Angle and his team prevent the masking of interstellar wood alcohol spectrography. You can check out the entire document here.