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I say all that to help you understand why I am so excited about the latest piece of technology I’ve been playing with for the last few weeks: RoboReel. It’s a robotic garden hose, and it’s one of the coolest examples of high tech converging with everyday life I’ve seen in a long time.
At the risk of sounding like one of those awful TV infomericals, let me tell you some of the things I usually hate about garden hoses. I hate how hard they are to reel and unreel, and how difficult they are to move around the yard. I hate how filthy they get. I hate that they invariably spring leaks where they screw into the nozzle or spigot.
RoboReel addresses all those issues. At its core, RoboReel is 100 feet of 5/8-inch garden hose (or 150 feet of 1/2-inch hose) on a reel that’s enclosed in a strong, secure spherical shell – which in turn sits on four lockable wheels and bears a subtle resemblance to Robocop’s ED-209. A pull cord lets you drag it around the lawn or move it between your front and back yards.
But that’s not especially “techy,” and I promised that it was robotic, so let me tell you a little about that. First of all, thanks to the heavy-duty rechargeable battery hidden in the shell, the reel provides a powered assist when you extract the reel. Start pulling, and instead of the usual resistance you’ll encounter when working with a garden hose and reel, RoboReel helps unwind itself – it’s easy to pull out, even all the way across the yard.
You don’t control the flow of water by pulling a trigger on the nozzle; instead, there’s a “remote control” with four buttons at the end of the hose, right before the nozzle. The remote has a button that toggles the flow of water; press it once to start spraying, and press it again to turn the water off.
Have you ever accidentally left a hose running all day long? Because there’s a computer in there, it’s smart enough to turn the water off after an hour, so you never need worry about the hose running unattended and wasting huge amounts of water.
The best part: When you’re done, press a button and the hose will retract itself automatically, with absolutely no effort required on your part. And RoboReel won’t damage itself. If you start to reel it in and someone steps on the hose, RoboReel stops in its tracks rather than continuing to pull on the hose.
I’ve saved one of the coolest features for last – additional buttons on the remote let you program RoboReel for autonomous operation. You can tell the system how long to run, and whether to repeat the process on multiple days. You can optionally tell RoboReel to retract itself when it’s done. That means you can use RoboReel to water your lawn each day on a schedule, even if you don’t have a sprinkler system, or you can ask it to fill the pool and stop automatically when it’s done.
RoboReel comes with an array of nozzles, all of which fit in the shell for storage, and an optional sprinkler head is available as well. Everything snaps together with double O-rings and quick-release fittings; there are no leaky screw threads anywhere in this system. All this future-tech-today doesn’t come cheap. RoboReel costs a heart-stopping $649. That said, if you spend a lot of time working in your yard, RoboReel is one of those elegantly engineered, transformative gadgets that make you happy to be in the 21st Century.