Robotic Suitcase Follows You Around

I have something that follows me around all the time: my dog Jasper. His cargo-carrying capability is limited, though, and he requires occasional treats. Not so this robotic suitcase. All it needs, the designers claim, is an occasional charge and a Bluetooth device to follow.

Designed by NUA Robotics, this suitcase is equipped with powered wheels and a certain amount of smarts: enough to figure out the direction of a Bluetooth signal such as your cell phone and follow it. This is also accompanied by proximity sensors so it doesn’t bump into you or other people. When the built-in battery runs out, just pop put the handle and pull it yourself, and the regenerative motors will recharge the battery. There’s no indication on price, battery life or how much space is left to actually carry stuff yet, but the designers claim it could be out within the year. As someone who uses a walking stick, this sounds like a great idea. And if they can work out how to get it to walk the dog for me, that would be even better.

Now, who will be the first to build a clone of this in their basement? Bonus points if it’s a two-wheeled self-balancer.

[via Mashable]

63 thoughts on “Robotic Suitcase Follows You Around

        1. Depends on how heavy it is, if it’s even possible to run away with it.

          You could give it a ground detector, so if it’s lifted it starts beeping. Obviously you disarm that by pressing a button on your phone before you lift it yourself. These are all just technical problems!

  1. Advertising. One link to the company which sells the product, a wrapping blabla, and one link to an HaD article.
    with such “articles”, HaD looks more like Thinkgeek than anything else.
    No information, no hack, no howto, no code, not even a photo of the guts of the item, nothing. Just plain advertising!

    1. Ah, but they’ve thrown out the challenge of building one yourself. You complain of lack of hack… make your own and submit it. Bonus points if you make it a two wheeled self balancer.

  2. Buy several suitcases, arm them (chainsaws?), and make each suitcase follow one of the other suitcases. Or could one make a train of suitcases? Next suitcase follows a cheap Chinese Android phone on the previous one. I wonder if they would go around in a loop if the tail follows the head.

    This product doesn’t make a lot of sense so I’m not trying to figure out anything sensible use for it.

    1. I first saw one of these when I was caddying for gas money in the *seventies*. Golfer wore a CW transmitter on his belt, like a pager (remember those?). The golf cart had two loopstick antennas and two motors, and no computer. Not even an arduino. It measured the difference in signal between the two antennas and pointed the cart in the direction to minimize the difference. If the signal power was low it went forward. If the signal power was high, it stopped. Worked fine. No bluetooth required. Good thing too. Cell phones didn’t exist then.

  3. I noticed a couple of things while watching the video:
    – The guy and his robot are traveling slower than everyone else toward the center of their path, causing everyone to awkwardly dodge around him. Not a good situation in a crowded bustling airport.
    – The guy is constantly looking over his shoulder to check on his robot. I would be too. Running into a post in a crowded airport is no way to live, son..
    – The luggage would not fit in a standard overhead bin, which means it would need to be checked. Checking my large luggage is the first thing I do when I get to an airport.

    I’d say it’s a cool hack, but as others pointed out, it’s not really a hack. I realize this may be an early prototype, but I don’t see the point of it in its current form. I’ll stick with my $30 roll-a-board…

    I’m not intending to be cruel; please don’t take my critiques that way.

    1. Yep. when it can follow me at full sprint dodging through people from Gate G to Gate A for my connecting flight that leaves in 20 minutes and I have a 15 minute distance to travel….

    2. I agree. It’s hip, but not practical in the least. Just because you can do something doesn’t make it a good idea. (And making it a two-wheeled balancer, like some others suggested, would just make it worse.)

      If I were to do this at all, I’d put it on a spring-loaded retractable leash, clipped to your belt. Just like the ones for dogs. Have it advance based on the leash extension/tension, attempting to maintain a steady distance. Steering is optional, the front wheels could just be casters, or it could steer based on side tension of the leash.

      Simpler, lighter, smaller, cheaper. It follows directly behind you, at a known distance. And if there’s an issue you’ll know when the leash starts pulling, rather than having to look over your shoulder constantly.

        1. Except that sudden stops would be painful. I like the retractable leash idea only because, not only would it know when to accelerate to keep up with you, it would know when to brake… Plus, as mentioned, a little tension on the line would assure you that it’s still there, helping to avoid whiplash and forehead bruises.
          Unless you also make it tall, it’s still a trip hazard for others in crowded areas. Even if it’s a mop handle with a wig on top, it would draw enough attention from passers-by to keep from getting stepped on.

  4. missing a couple of things. A head, a tail, and a voice box.

    “Master? Mistress”?

    Ive been wanting to build a luggage holding K-9 for awhile. complete with self protection capabilities :)

  5. Here in the Netherlands Guust did this in the seventies, only he took a huge amount of regular D cells, leaving a very small space in the suitcase for only his toothbrush…
    (in french he was named Gaston Lagaffe, a Hacker with a capital H)

  6. I’m calling vaporware on this. The only sensors visible on this device are ultrasonic range finders, all of which are pointing in the same direction. Which means that the robot should only be able to detect things that are directly in front of it. At best, it should be barely capable of obstacle avoidance and should have trouble with obstacles that are not directly in front of it. If you change direction 180 degrees or so, the robot must also rotate around and because it does not have any sensors on its side it could bash into something. Not to mention that in this configuration the sensors could interfere with each other, they don’t detect things that don’t reflect ultrasound back to the sensor, and changes in temperature/humidity result in different distance measurements.

    I am also very doubtful that phone bluetooth alone is enough to localize the user.

  7. Instead of a personal suitcase, someone needs to use this technology to design a buggy you rent when you run between airplanes. You could drop in a few quarters or swipe your card, sync to your phone, pile on your carry on luggage and walk fast to the next gate. The machine could even be smart enough to stop following when it’s put away – where it would be charging & waiting for the next person to feed it’s owners quarters!

  8. I started thinking about this type of “follower robot” back when I was running a lot. I’d often run to/from work. I wanted of a robot that could follow me, carrying my work laptop, my lunch, and my work clothes. This one is obviously only a “start”, but interesting nonetheless. I’m sure militaries would be interested in ruggedized and more-advanced versions of this. They’re already talking about using the boston dynamics robots to haul gear for soldiers.

    1. I’d like to see a version of that with light off road capabilities; I go to a school where the roads are bad and the sidewalks are almost nonexistent, so being able to run to class and back home without worrying about my books would be nice. Maybe I could hack some monster truck RC parts to do it?

  9. I think they do have something similar for military purposes called a “mule”. (like the animal.)

    I always thought of building one myself when I was at school holding heavy text books.

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