By Rich Manning – Originally posted on OC Executive Magazine
Not too long ago, the concept of robots and robotics infiltrating our everyday lives was something that oscillated somewhere between the bizarre and the eerie; a technological advance that was going to take away jobs before coming self-aware and destroying mankind. Thankfully, this era that coincided with the first wave of automated machines has passed, leaving in its wake the notion that robots are helpful, industrious, and pretty cool. Their reputation for possessing these attributes has enabled them to infiltrate the world of golf, a sport whose pastoral, leisurely nature almost seems like an odd fit for such advances. However, as the amazed reaction to Bubba Watson’s magical hovercraft proved, golf is indeed quite ready to embrace matters of 21st century technological progress.
With that in mind, it’s no wonder that the robotic golfing assistant CaddyTrek is capturing the imagination of tech-heads and golf aficionados alike. Created by the technology company FTR Systems and borne out of company CEO Dr. Chung-Hsin Lee’s passion for golfing, the autonomous caddy device has been following golfers around courses with flawless precision since it hit the market in 2009, turning plenty of heads in the process.
“A lot of people have given the CaddyTrek the old double take the first time they see it in action,” explains Richard Nagle, North American and Europe Sales Manager for CaddyTrek. “We’ve even had a few people run across parking lots and chasing it because they thought it was just rolling away.”
Time and again, this kind of initial surprise gives way to fascination, and with good reason. CaddyTrek’s robot represents the natural, technologically advanced evolution of a concept that was first found on the golf course through the remote-controlled caddy devices that popped up in the 1970s. Unlike those rudimentary and occasionally frustrating gadgets from 40 or so years ago, the CaddyTrek system is a sophisticated mechanism consisting of three computers, two powerful motors, and one transponder that the golfer wears to flawlessly coax the machine into movement. “It’s defaulted to keep a distance of six paces between it and the golfer,” Nagle explains. “Essentially, it acts like a dog following you.”
Like any pooch worth its salt, the CaddyTrek is a paragon of faithful loyalty. The device’s battery contains enough power to easily last 27 holes on a single charge – “Some users have gotten as many as 54 holes,” Nagle states. The device can act like a hunting hound of sorts, as players can use their transponder to send it up to 250 yards ahead. Plus, every unit is encoded with their own unique signal, meaning that the device’s devotion to its user will never get compromised if it’s surrounded by multiple CaddyTrek owners.
While CaddyTrek’s technological muscle has made it an attention getter, it isn’t the only reason for its appeal. For one thing, it does its part to help the greens of the golf course stay green by encouraging players to ditch the golf cart and walk through a course’s sculpted splendor. “CaddyTrek is built to be environmentally friendly,” Nagle says. “It takes the golf cart of the golf course, which is important since carts run off gas – not to mention that golf carts really don’t speed up play.” Nagle also says the device’s compact nature also plays a role in its popularity. “The CaddyTrek doesn’t take up much space when it’s stored,” he states. “Four of the units can easily fit into a small sedan. Plus, golfers who are travelling can fold it up and put it in an airplane’s overhead compartment without a problem.”
The success of CaddyTrek has inspired FTR Systems to explore the use of its technology into areas beyond the golf course, such as the medical or assisted living fields. Yet as they stretch out to other realms, they are not content on resting on CaddyTrek’s acclaimed laurels. “We are always looking to improve upon what CaddyTrek can do,” Nagle says. “As technology continues to advance, it’s important that we stay in step.”
Your move, Mr. Watson