The Gita would look right at home in “Star Wars.” (Photo courtesy of Piaggio Fast Forward)
Engineers are working feverishly to solve a problem you may not have known you have. Apparently, our carry-on luggage is too annoying to pull behind us.
Their solution: Robot luggage like R2-D2 or BB-8 that follow us around autonomously filled with our belongings.
Developers say that these devices free your hands and enable people to travel more conveniently as you make your way through busy airport terminals.
They use examples like when you have too many bags, are carrying your children, go up stairs or escalators, or are in a rush to check in for a flight.
But are we ready to let our luggage off the leash? We don’t even let our dogs do that in most cases.
Here are three examples of robot luggage looking to improve the lives of travelers.
Cowa Robot’s scientists claim that they’ve created “the first suitcase that moves on its own” and that it’s “the first and only robotic suitcase” on the market. Maybe in Shanghai, where Cowa Robot is based.
But other manufacturers make the same we’re-first-to-market-claim, so how Cowa Robot stands out is in the details.
What’s nice about this new bot is that it actually looks like a carry-on case, as opposed to some of its rivals, and and is sized like one, too. It measures 21.6-inches x 15-inches and fits into an overhead compartment. It’s just a little pricey at $699.
With that price comes additional features, of course, including “obstacle avoidance,” to help make its way through crowds. It also follows by your side to “stay in your line of sight.”
Our favorite claim: “Even if it lags behind while avoiding obstacles, it will quickly catch up to you and return to its place next to you.” Again, very dog like.
To see the Cowa Robot in action, check out the video below.
The Cowa’s pretty speedy, able to move up to 4.5 mph, and run for 12.5 continuous miles when fully charged. It also has built-in “cliff detection” sensors, in case you’re ever taking a hike with your new luggage companion at the Grand Canyon. “It pays attention so you don’t have to,” say its developers.
The Cowa comes with its own app, which lets you do things like lock your luggage, keep tabs on where your bag is at all times and how much it weighs, and lock it remotely. A built-in battery also lets you charge mobile devices via a USB port.
But it also includes the R1 bracelet that’s similar to a smartwatch that enables you to tap on the screen and command the roller bag to find its way back to you.
“Relax, sit back and have your belongings come to you,” says the Cowa Robot site.
Like the Cowa Robot, Travelmate Robotics’ carry-on uses artificial intelligence to follow its owner, and navigate through crowds and around obstacles, adjusting to your speed as you walk.
The Travelmate is faster than the Cowa, reaching a top speed of 6.75 miles per hour as it tracks a smartphone’s location and keeps within three- to five-feet of the device.
It’s a little more flexible than the Cowa, too, able to move up right or on its side.
We’re also liking the price: $399 on Indiegogo.
Watch the Travelmate in action below.
Olive Robotics also claims to have “the only suitcase in the world” that is “able to follow you autonomously, even if in a crowded situation.” It does so via a “skeleton tracker” technology developed by the company, and not via an app or bracelet.
According to Olive Robotics’ website, the device is a chatty little character, with the ability to remind its master of when it’s late for a flight, for example.
Its case also takes a more unusual form than the Cowa or Travelmate bots, looking a little bulky for most overhead compartments.
Not to be outdone, the technicians over at Piaggio, the Italian firm that gave us the Vespa scooter, has created its own autonomous carrier.
Calling it a suitcase just doesn’t work, given its round shape — that resembles more the inside of a washing machine than anything else. It’s also pretty large, measuring 26-inches tall.
Piaggio Fast Forward has developed the Gita to follow its owner down sidewalks and even streets, moving a brisk 22 miles per hour at top speeds. It can also deliver or pick up items on its own, via a city’s map, which could provide companies like Amazon with an alternative to flying drones.
The Gita is hardly airport friendly. And its bucket to hold up to 40 pounds of items doesn’t seem well suited for what we all bring on trips.
But Gita “frees up the human hand to focus on complex and creative everyday tasks by taking over mundane transportation chores,” according to Piaggio Fast Forward CEO Jeffrey Schnapp. “You can also send your Gita off on missions while you are busy doing something more pressing. Think about how much more freely you would be able to move from one point to another if lugging cumbersome items was removed from the equation.”
We might all just need to keep imagining until these products prove their use.