Wii hack makes light work of mowing the grass

University researchers mod a Wii-mote so it can be used to control an industrial lawn mower.

Casmobot uses a standard Wii remote control that communicates via Bluetooth to a robot built into the mower.

Casmobot uses a standard Wii remote control that communicates via Bluetooth to a robot built into the mower.

When Mary Poppins talked about turning chores into games it's a good bet she didn't expect Casmobot.

Researchers at the University of Southern Denmark have modified a Wii remote control so that it can control an industrial lawn mower.

"The Casmobot project is about making grass cutting more efficient," said Kjeld Jensen, a robotics researcher at the University of Southern Denmark who developed the system.

It uses a standard Wii remote control that communicates via Bluetooth to a computer and robotics module built into the mower. Actions of the mower are matched to tilt actions of the remote. For example, if you tilt the remote down the mower moves forwards, tilt is up and it moves backwards and so on.

The Wii-mote can be used to control the mower manually or in computer-assisted mode, where the mower is guided around the edge of the area to be cut and then left to finish the job automatically.

The Wii and its motion sensitive remote controller, dubbed the "Wii-mote," have won the hearts of millions of consumers since they first went on sale in 2007 -- and also stimulated the minds of many developers. They've hacked the remote so it can be used to control other things and there are several Web sites where details of such projects are posted.

On Hackawii.com hacks include a Web cam remote control, Wii-controlled coil gun, a self-balancing "SegWii" and a Wii-mote used as a spirit level.

While on the Wii Hacks blog visitors can see Google Earth controlled with the remote and a head-tracking virtual reality system using the Wii-mote.

There's no word from the university on whether the Wii-controlled mower might be turned into a commercial product, but it's apparently had a good reception so far.

"We have been introducing this to the professional workers at the municipalities and the minute they got this Wii-mote in their hands and started cutting grass they were smiling and laughing all the time so I guess I'm not the only one that thinks this is a very good idea," said Jensen.

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Martyn Williams

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