April 21, 2024
Robot Suitcase

The Rise of Robot Suitcase and Their Future Impacts

Travelling with luggage has always been a chore, from difficult airport navigation to heavy lifting of bags. However, a new type of “robot suitcase” looks to revolutionize luggage handling by following owners around autonomously. These robot suitcases use a combination of camera sensors, GPS systems and wheeled locomotion to trail closely behind owners without needing to be physically pulled or pushed.

Early Prototypes

One of the first companies to debut a Robot Suitcase prototype was ForwardX based in Shanghai, China. Their product, called the ForwardX C1, has a maximum payload capacity of 33 pounds and uses computer vision to track and follow its owner at walking speeds of up to 3 mph. A lithium battery allows for 4 hours of continuous autonomous travel and the suitcase has obstacle avoidance capabilities using front-facing cameras. ForwardX showcased the C1 at CES in 2020 to positive reviews but is still refining the product for commercial launch.

Another notable early entrant was the privately-funded RomoBot, a suitcase from Anthropic in San Francisco that made its debut in 2021. Like ForwardX’s model, RomoBot can carry up to 33 pounds of luggage and travel at walking speeds of 3 mph using advanced simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) technology. However, RomoBot differentiates itself through integrated locking mechanisms, longer battery life of 6 hours and integration with smartphone apps for remote control and location tracking when separated from the owner.

Current Robot Suitcase Leaders

Heading into 2022, two companies have established themselves as leaders in the Robot Suitcase sector – Bluesmart and Travelmate. Bluesmart, based in San Francisco, was one of the earliest entrants having debuted their autonomous suitcase back in 2016. Now in their third generation model, Bluesmart can carry up to 50 pounds, travel at up to 5 mph and offers 8 hours of battery life using computer vision paired with LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors for navigation. Their suitcase is integrated with AI assistants like Alexa and also works as a portable phone charger.

The other major player is Travelmate from Anthropic, the startup behind RomoBot. Having incorporated learnings from their earlier prototype, Travelmate improves on autonomy, payload capacity and smartphone integration. With a maximum weight allowance of 44 pounds, travel speed of 4 mph and battery lasting 6-8 hours on a single charge, Travelmate provides best-in-class performance currently according to most reviews. It uses true autonomous navigation powered by Anthropic’s Constitutional AI techniques for safe travel indoors and outdoors without needing human supervision. Travelmate’s suitcase locks, unlocks and finds the owner automatically using Bluetooth.

Applications Beyond Air Travel

While robot suitcases first captured attention due to promises of easing airport travel stress, their applications are expanding beyond just flying. As more hotels, convention centers and urban areas get equipped with WiFi and GPS coverage, these suitcases are proving useful for autonomous navigation within buildings and cities as well. Users can send their Travelmate or Bluesmart ahead to rooms, meetings or event venues without having to physically transport their bags.

This is opening new revenue opportunities for these companies beyond individual product sales. Both Bluesmart and Travelmate are piloting partnerships with major hotels in key business travel hubs like San Francisco, New York and London. Through such programs, guests can rent a robot suitcase during their stay to remotely access luggage from anywhere on the hotel property using just a smartphone. Some event venues are also trialing robotic luggage valet services where attendees can check bags without carrying them.

The Future of Robot Suitcases

As spatial awareness and autonomous mobility capabilities continue advancing, expect robot suitcases over the next 3-5 years to take on more complex indoor and outdoor guiding tasks beyond simple following. Real-time generated maps, advanced obstacle identification and rerouting could enable features like navigating crowded areas, finding specific spots in large facilities, avoiding flight delays by guiding to optimal security queues and even loading bags independently into rideshare vehicles or taxi trunks.

Integrations with smart home platforms will facilitate new control interfaces and summoning these suitcases from remote locations with just a voice command. Charging pod networks in major transit hubs could ensure round-trip energy replenishment without the need for manual charging. And enhanced materials, protection from weather along with autonomous piloting may see robot suitcases transporting themselves between airports, train stations or even accompanying owners on short 1-2 day trips entirely self-driven.

The robot suitcase is revolutionizing luggage handling by removing physical constraints of portability. Advancements over the next few years promise to greatly improve the mobility and logistical support these assistants can provide during all stages of the travel experience, from check-in to destination arrival. Autonomous transportation looks set to transform not just how we move people but commodities as well.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it