Who doesn’t want their own personal robot, especially one that follows you around and carries all your stuff?
Travelmate, the self-moving suitcase slash “everyday robot companion” may be coming to an airport near you.
A team of American robotics specialists from SMP Robotics came together just over a year ago to create this sci-fi travel buddy, which is programmed through your smartphone.
The 26-person design team put their love of robots together with a love of travel, and the prototype was born, said Travelmate Robotics CEO and founder David Near, 62.
Near explained his team just wasn’t satisfied with the direction that every other company was taking with robot design, and wanted to move from security to functionality.
“They’ve been focused on two areas: humanoid ‘proof of concepts’ and commercial robots,” he said, “(but) there hasn’t been any focus on developing something for people that’s all-purpose and really helps improve everyday life.”
The self-moving suitcase is a robot first and foremost, Near said, and since all of its components take up only 5 per cent of the total suitcase, it can carry stuff, too.
“I’ve always wanted to make a functional robot that acts as an extension of yourself and is a friend that helps you out,” he said.
Apparently the public has always wanted a robot companion, too: The company’s Indiegogo campaign handily reached its $4,000 goal on its first day and was 500 per cent over its goal as of Monday.
“I’m very happy about it, and have investment offers already from a couple different places,” said Near. “Overall (the reaction) has been great.”
Those who order the self-driving suitcases through Indiegogo can expect their personal robot by June 2017, before they hit stores in July.
The Travelmate costs about $539 for the standard model, but comes in three sizes. It weighs three to five kilograms, depending on its size, and Near says they’re trying to get that weight down. (The Economy Class maximum weight for Air Canada carry-on luggage, for example, is 10 kilograms.)
The suitcases reach a top speed of 10.8 km/h and have built-in sensors that detect and avoid obstacles. It has a lock that uses your fingerprint as a key, GPS to pinpoint its location at all times, and a USB and standard electrical outlet to charge your phone and other gadgets.
You can even customize the colour of its LED lights that signal which way the bag will turn when you do.
“It has thousands of potential uses,” said Near. “It can be your personal camera operator . . . it has speakers . . . it can even theoretically play chess or other games with you by saying voice commands.”
Built on open-source software, Travelmate can be updated when programmers create and share new features on the Travelmate app.
It is so smart that Near compares the robo-suitcase to smartphones.
“(Smartphones) went from doing one thing — calling people — to having thousands of features,” he said.
“The point is that nobody knew that they needed a smartphone until the first iPhone was announced. And we all know how that ended up.”
Travelmate, he says, intends to “shake up the robot industry” in a similar fashion.
“It’s part of an ongoing transition of technology into practical applications in everyday life,” said Near. “Robots are cool, but how do you apply them in ways that benefit you? That’s the question that we asked ourselves.”
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