Yes, it's a marketing gimmick. Sure, it's kind of hokey. But darn it if this doesn't unexpectedly pull at the heartstrings.
Husqvarna, the maker of autonomous home lawn mowers that look something like RC tactical assault vehicles from Mad Max times, is releasing an unusual software update to celebrate a lonely robot thousands of miles away. In early August, the Curiosity Mars rover will turn 10 years old. Following the software update, some 100,000 Husqvarna Automowers around the world will be able to sing Happy Birthday to the intrepid explorer.
There's some backstory here (and, of course, a video). The engineers behind Curiosity obviously had some fun. They programmed the advanced data collection robot to sing Happy Birthday to itself, which it did on its first birthday in Space. But saving batteries took precedence on subsequent birthdays and the rover, which is still in operation, has not had any birthday magic since.
Rovers have long held a unique space in popular imagination, and while anthropomorphizing a machine is always questionable these Rovers (and the team behind them) are worthy of celebration. My kids love a book called Good Night Oppy, about the Opportunity rover, and there are similar titles about Curiosity.
"For us, this is a way to pay homage to the great engineering work of NASA, and that of our extensive team of robotic experts, by letting our robotic mowers celebrate a fellow robot … nobody should have to sing Happy Birthday to themselves, right?" asked Björn Mannefred, Robotics Software Manager at Husqvarna.
Husqvarna has been ahead of the pack in working with IoT and external third-party solutions, including Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and IFTTT. This latest software update is available on August 5 and has a bit of Elon Musk flair to it. If you have an Automower, the update is available to models 405X, 415X, and 435X AWD and will become available permanently in September for Automower owners for use in their future birthday celebrations.