Miimo is Honda’s robotic lawn mower, in a market that is expanding in Europe and around the world due to lifestyle changes and aging populations. Aiming for a design with “gentleness and affinity” that blends in with the customer’s lifestyle while retaining solid lawn mowing functionality, Honda’s designers created a unique form of robotic lawn mower that is unmistakably a Honda.
Aiming to Create a Lovable Robot Lawn Mower that Blends in with Life
Changing perceptions in a matured gardening market
One of the reasons Miimo came in to existence is the change in customers’ perceptions in Europe, one of Honda’s main lawn mower markets. Mowing the lawn used to be an opportunity for landlords to show off their skills, spending their weekends perfecting their gardens and boasting about the beauty of their hard work. Now, they would rather spend time with their families, or relax on their lawns. The trend changed to “spending quality family time on the weekends, rather than perfecting the garden.”
Market research stressed the importance of becoming a “family member”
Before Miimo development began, I had the opportunity to visit home gardens in Europe. What I saw was heartwarming. On one occasion, the robot lawn mower had a name, like a pet, written on its side, and the family’s cats and dogs were playing with it as it worked. It was not only a work machine, but was treated as one of the family, showing me that this genre was becoming more accepted in family life.
After returning to Japan and musing on what Honda’s robot lawn mower should be like, I realized the family affectionately treating the lawn mower as its other pets took hold within me. I decided that Miimo’s design should emanate “happiness and peace of mind” in a friendly and elegant garden life setting.
An early sketch, one of many exploring various forms
Miimo HRM520 Designer
A design that emanates a feeling of serenity
I felt that in a garden setting, a time of rest and relaxation, a work robot need not be bulky, but kind and even alive, to blend in better with a garden scene and the customer’s lifestyle. To that end, we chose McKinley White (a bright beige that brings serenity to a lawn setting) over Power Red (Honda’s signature color used for its generators and tillers) for the Miimo’s base color.
Design concept of Miimo HRM520
Lawn mowers are prone to scratches from branches and stones in the garden. Miimo is protected all around, with a gray round-shape bumper that looks soft and flexible protecting Miimo and the plants. The edges and curves of the white body project a kind and yet tame appearance, like a spoon scooping ice cream. The opening that houses the connector to the docking station is deliberately designed to resemble a smile, to give Miimo a charming look.
Automatically returns to docking station
Docking station designed with same character lines as Miimo’s
Functionality and safety in all of Miimo’s design
As a robotic lawn mower installed in a garden, Miimo should not only be highly functional, but consider functionality and safety because of its autonomous operation. I was convinced that a design that realized this functionality and Miimo’s personality would be appreciated by our customers. For example, what is a shape that stays clean despite rain and wind? To do that, Miimo’s design incorporates many elements, such as minimizing protrusions that debris can get caught on, positioning a gutter between the black and white components, and an overall design that dust and leaves would naturally fall off.
The blades at the center of Miimo are deliberately hard to access, and in case of accidentally lifting Miimo while it operates, the blades are immediately stopped. The low overall height and tires hidden by the bumper are designed for the same reason, but I went further by styling Miimo so it looks as if it is floating, and gliding while operating.
Early European model CG rendering
The emergency switch is deliberately colored red. The control panel and its cover are designed at a position and angle to shade the screen when the cover is opened, and make looking at the screen easier for users of any size.
High Performance and Evolved Miimo HRM3000 a “Grown-up Big Brother”
Positioning as a “big brother”
The HRM3000 evolves the original HRM520’s performance, aimed at Europe. Compared to the HRM520, it has a higher performance, and is larger. Since I had observed the development of the original HRM520, I was convinced from the beginning that in designing the HRM3000, elements that should be inherited, such as it being “part of the family” or alive, would be.
Miimo HRM3000 Designer
Infants and newborn animals are round and cute, attracting instinctive protection by their parents, but as they grow, their muscles and bones develop, and their physical capabilities skyrocket. This is the sort of “grown-up body” I wanted to give the HRM5000. Its increased functionality was the “grown-up” part, and fused with Miimo’s personality, I designed a “big brother” Miimo.
Big body and strong “legs”
The HRM3000 has less ivory-colored components, making it feel more mechanical. I incorporated that into the design, to assert the new functionality of the HRM3000. For example, gardens have many irregularities such as holes and bumps, which would stop robotic lawn mowers. But a robotic lawn mower that does not move, needing a person to move it, is pointless. To solve this problem, and operate as a robotic lawn mower should, the HRM3000 has larger tires. To make its enhanced performance as a top model clear, the bulge where the black and white contrast is the most attention-grabbing, is larger. It looks more mechanical and functional, but I think it also looks like a “big brother” Miimo. A strong big brother, a larger big brother with strong legs.
Design concept of Miimo HRM3000
Design brings people happiness
The principle of Honda’s power products is “building things that are useful in life.” In designing, asking “is this product useful to our customers’ lives?” or more specifically, “does this product lead to an enriched life?” is vital. One customer commented, “it has lots of functions, but more importantly, it’s cute when it’s not operating,” while another mentioned, “I bought Miimo for my aging father, and my mother was also pleased.” By not only looking at the product itself, but at the situations it will be used in and expressing how it fits into a lifestyle, I realized that design could make not only the customer happy, but that customer’s family as well. Robots can be lovable, depending on how they move, and how they fit in with people. When designing a robot, I think it is important for the customer to have positive feelings, such as wanting to keep on looking at it, or feeling happy when it is around.
FROM THE DESIGNERS
Like a pet loved by the whole family
Miimo is a robot, but seeing it silently tending to the garden come rain or wind, or looking blissfully asleep while recharging, is also a brave and lovable product. I hope Miimo will be loved as a part of our customers’ families, and bring them a more enriched gardening life and serenity.
Joji Maeda (Miimo HRM520 Designer)
A product the customer will want to put on display
There is a serenity that comes with sipping coffee, maybe, and watching Miimo working from a distance. It makes you feel that maybe the feeling of serenity is worth far more than your lawn being mowed automatically.
Masato Fujiwara (Miimo HRM3000 Designer)