Introducing Roam-eo, the innovative autonomous range picker that has revolutionized operations at RattleSnake Point Golf Club. Roam-eo joined the club at the beginning of the 2023 season and has quickly become an invaluable asset to the Range Team. By taking on various responsibilities, Roam-eo has lightened the workload for staff, enabling them to enhance their productivity in other aspects of course maintenance. To learn more about Roam-eo's origins and contributions, we spoke with Mike Snopek, a dedicated member of the Range Team. Let's explore the journey of Roam-eo's integration into RattleSnake Point Golf Club.
ClubLink: How did Roam-eo come to RattleSnake Point Golf Club?
Mike: Robin Li, from XeraTech Robotics, a Canadian company specializing in providing robot solutions for the golf industry, approached Grant Holcomb, ClubLink's Regional Director, with a demo of Roam-eo. It was later introduced to Craig Cupido, the Regional Director of Operations, and Stephanie Berriman, the Golf Operations Manager. The name "Roam-eo" was suggested by Isabella Pileggi and Arnie Hamer, members of the RattleSnake Turf Team.
ClubLink: What are the benefits of Roam-eo?
Mike: Roam-eo complements the ball-picking efforts without requiring a person to do it. The staff finds it particularly helpful in the mornings when they are setting up other elements of the practice facility, such as chipping and putting areas. This allows more opportunities for staff members to interact with club members and build rapport. Roam-eo also enables the staff to pay more attention to club members and cater to their needs. Additionally, with a busy range that serves club members, kids' camps, and lessons, Roam-eo helps manage the business of the range.
During busy times, Roam-eo has allowed for one less staff member on the range, making it possible for the property and scheduling team to deploy staff to other areas. It has proven to be durable, withstanding the impact of golf balls. Club members have shown positive curiosity and have praised the device. However, it's important to note that Roam-eo will not eliminate the need for a staff member, as there are other duties, such as emptying the basket, that still require human intervention. Roam-eo has not encountered any issues getting stuck. With GPS tracking technology and proper obstacle identification, we have confidence in the robot's ability to fulfill its mission successfully and safely. Although there were initial challenges, consistent usage has allowed the device's creator to refine the software and improve its efficiency. Roam-eo is able to pick up approximately 60% more balls than a single person.
When Roam-eo is turned on, the team can monitor it remotely, check charging levels, location, and address any issues. Robin has been great in assisting with troubleshooting. A large flag placed on top of Roam-eo ensures visibility for tractor drivers, club members, and staff who need to spot it on the range, even in dips and lower areas.
ClubLink: How has Roam-eo performed so far this season?
Mike: As expected with a new device, there were some initial hiccups. However, Robin has been helpful in providing technical support and fixing issues remotely.
ClubLink: How long has Roam-eo been operating at RattleSnake Point Golf Club?
Mike: Roam-eo has been an integral part of our Range Team since April 2023. The device is leased for the remainder of the year.
ClubLink: How do you control Roam-eo's perimeter?
Mike: The range is divided into seven sections based on the density of golf balls. From the home base, Roam-eo is programmed to operate in one of the seven sections. Each run takes approximately 40 minutes. The battery life lasts from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Roam-eo takes breaks throughout the day. It operates multiple sessions daily and only stops if it encounters an obstacle.
ClubLink: What happens if Roam-eo encounters an obstacle?
Mike: If Roam-eo encounters an obstacle, it comes to a complete stop, and the operating team remotely redirects it around the obstacle. There is no damage to the device. The GPS programming identifies obstacles and collection zones, ensuring the safety of our staff and members, as well as the efficiency of ball collection for the Range Team.
ClubLink: What improvements would you like to see with Roam-eo?
Mike: It would be beneficial if Roam-eo could recognize the density of golf balls in specific areas more quickly, allowing it to adapt to changes in the position of mats on the range as the season progresses. Additionally, the trail left by its tires increases the maintenance required on the range. A wider carriage of collection bins would be helpful, and if the towing mechanism could handle a larger collection tray, Roam-eo could stay on the range for longer periods.
Currently, to turn on Roam-eo, we press a red button and hold it down for 6 seconds, repeating this process 6 times. Using GPS technology, Roam-eo identifies trees, flag poles, shrubs, and other obstacles, avoiding them. We hope that Roam-eo will eventually learn which sections of the range it needs to go to, rather than relying on manual programming. With the advancement of AI, we anticipate this becoming a reality soon.
Robin Li from XeraTech Robotics was kind enough to share information about his product and the future of his company. XeraTech Robotics stands for "X" robotics, representing the era of robotics.
ClubLink: Thank you for chatting with us today. What can you tell me about XeraTech?
Robin: I established the company two years ago. My background is in electronic engineering, and I combined my passion for robotics with my hobby of playing golf to create something that could assist the industry. We are a Canadian-based company aiming to tap into the global market. Currently, we are headquartered in Markham, Ontario.
ClubLink: What is the future of XeraTech Robotics?
Robin: The automated range picker is just the beginning of our robot series. We started with ball picking as a proof of concept and plan to expand into other robotic products such as grass cutting, soil measurement, irrigation, and chemical spraying. Our goal is to have robots supporting most golf courses, reducing labor costs for clubs. We are dedicated to developing new products and working towards our vision of enhancing efficiency at golf courses worldwide.
ClubLink: How has the feedback been from Golf Clubs using the automated range picker?
Robin: Currently, there are over 20 units deployed on various properties. All our customers are satisfied, and we prioritize providing quality customer service. The ability to remotely maintain our products allows us to have more units in operation without compromising company productivity. Clubs have experienced significant cost savings, especially in terms of reduced gas costs. On average, clubs can save up to $2,000 per month. Smaller ranges require less labor, resulting in further labor cost reductions.
ClubLink: Do you have any other fun facts?
Robin: Currently, there are over 20 units deployed throughout the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We conduct over 200 sessions daily, with each session picking up 2,500 balls. As a result, over 500,000 balls are picked up every day, amounting to more than 50 million balls picked up so far this year. It's worth noting that Roam-eo has only been in operation for two years. We aim to have 200 units deployed next year and anticipate having 500 to 1,000 units by 2025.
ClubLink: What are you currently working on?
Robin: We are currently working on a fully automated system that requires no human intervention. The new system will pick up the balls, deposit them into bins at the club, send them for washing, and then dispense them to players. Presently, range team members need to disassemble the robot and manually place the balls into the dispensers or buckets for club members to use. This fully automated system will be the first of its kind globally. We can remotely troubleshoot any issues and provide software updates as needed. For more details, visit the website at xeratechrobotics.com.
A few more fun facts about Roam-eo:
Roam-eo has a maximum speed of 5 mph.
Roam-eo cannot detect tractors, so staff are aware of its location to avoid collisions
The safety bar on the front of Roam-eo is designed to block obstacles
The two dishes on top of Roam-eo are satellite receptors