Digital Ganda

TECH REVIEW: Meet the self-driving suitcase

The "robot suitcase" from California-based startup Travelmate can be controlled with a smartphone app and can roll alongside its owner at speeds up to 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) per hour, navigating around obstacles.

"This is really a robot which follows you around," said Travelmate founder and president Maximillian Kovtun.

Travelmate designed the device — which integrates elements of artificial intelligence — to roll at a pace that matches that of the user, or it can be directed with the smartphone app in the same manner as a drone.

The ForwardX Robotics self-driving CX-1 suitcase is seen during the CES Unveiled event on the sidelines of CES 2018 in Las Vegas on January 7, 2018. PHOTO / AFP

Priced at around $1,100, it is slated to roll out in February for the US market, and late in Europe and Japan.

A competing offering from ForwardX, a Chinese startup with offices in California, is designed to be used with facial recognition, without need for a smartphone application.

"It uses computer vision and a driving algorithm to have a clear path," said founder Nicholas Chee, who showed a prototype at CES.

The ForwardX suitcase also has gesture control technology and can be immobilized to protect against theft.

Chee said he expects the launch in mid-2018 at a price under $1,000.

Both Travelmate and ForwardX say their devices comply with US safety regulations because their lithium-ion batteries, banned in checked luggage, can be removed.

Also shown at CES was an auto-following suitcase from China-based 90FUN, which has been available in the Chinese market and is soon coming to America. It uses self-balancing technology from the personal transport maker Segway.

And finally for the weariest of travelers, a luggage product called the Modobag, which lacks artificial intelligence but offers a sizeable perk instead: as a ride-on suitcase which can carry its owner along with their clothes.

Tags: Technology

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