For anyone who hates carrying luggage, help may be on the way.
A California company has launched an Indiegogo campaign for an autonomous suitcase that it says will dutifully follow you. There’s no need to grab its handle and drag it along.
The suitcase stays three to five feet behind a person by tracking the location of their smartphone. It moves either upright, or while laying on its side.
“Suitcases haven’t really changed for the past couple of decades. It’s overdue for innovation,” said David Near, the CEO of Travelmate Robotics.
Near envisions the suitcase as being useful for pretty much anyone — from businesspeople to tourists to the disabled. The Travelmate comes in three sizes, selling for $399, $495 and $595. It tops out at 6.75 mph.
“For a lot of things, having an autonomous suitcase is much more comfortable,” said Near, 61, who decided a year ago that it would be cool to have a “robot companion” as he traveled the world.
The suitcase has been tested successfully in shopping malls and sidewalks, according to Near. He’s not concerned about the suitcase bumping into something in a crowded airport or train station.
The prototype suitcase relies on an infrared sensor to detect and avoid objects. But the final version, which ships next year, is expected to have a different sensor, perhaps a camera or radar.