Technology can already do so much, so why is it still up to you to lug your suitcase behind you every time you travel? It’s 2018, and honestly, we don’t have any real “hands-free” travel. Sure, your phone can be out of your hands, but as long as one is on the handle of your suitcase, it’s not genuinely hands-free. Fortunately, one Chinese company is looking to solve that.
ForwardX is developing a Vision-powered suitcase, which can follow you as you travel. This autonomous suitcase can make traveling more accessible than ever.
A Unique Suitcase
The design for the suitcase is simple – it’s sleek, the black design doesn’t make it stand out much from any other suitcase. Empty, it weighs a little less than ten pounds, and it is made of polypropylene and carbon fiber.
On closer inspection, however, there is a camera lens on one side of the suitcase. This lens is the suitcase’s “eye,” and it’s what sets the suitcase apart from other types of luggage. ForwardX’s suitcase, called “Ovis,” can both track movement and perform facial recognition.
Upon initial testing, the suitcase was only able to follow its owner from behind, but the company has been working to develop this further. The plan is to make Ovis even smarter so that it can avoid obstacles, like other travelers, and eventually walk side-by-side with its owner.
The suitcase also has a built-in weight sensor, which allows it to detect its weight. In case of security procedures, it is also possible to quickly remove the case’s battery.
One issue that the company is also looking to improve is the case’s battery-life. When tested, the battery could last up to four hours, and the goal is to elongate this so that the battery won’t die during traveling.
Getting the Case
Right now, ForwardX is advertising the product, but it is not yet for sale. There are still some software kinks to work out, and the company wants to test the product more to ensure its quality before it hits the market.
Despite being a China-based company, ForwardX is targeting an American Audience for this product. The suitcase will abide by the United States flying regulations, and it will not impede anyone’s ability to make it through airport security.
Currently, ForwardX’s biggest competition may be TravelMate Robotics, which launched its idea for a fully autonomous suitcase, a year ago. Their autonomous suitcase comes in three sizes (small, medium, and large), and has a starting price of over $1,000 for the smallest size.
The design for TravelMate’s suitcase is a bit different than the one ForwardX plans to sell, and one of the most significant differences could as be the price. Ovis is intended to cost less than half the price of Travelmate’s case, coming in at around $400.
The Company Behind It
ForwardX was founded in 2016, in Beijing, China. Ovis is not its first product, and before this product, they created an autonomous flatbed truck that could be used in Chinese warehouses.
The company tends to rely on crowdfunding to fund its projects. Recently they raised over $10 million to fund the making of Ovis.
ForwardX’s founder, Nicolas Chee, holds a degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics, as well as a Masters degree in Integrated Circuit. He has worked for years as a software engineer for various companies, and the idea for an autonomous suitcase came from his own experiences and desire to have a better suitcase while he traveled.
Among the company’s leadership, there is also chief technology officer, Xiaoyi Chen and chief operating officer, Yaxin Guan. Chen has years of experience as a software engineer, and Guan has over ten years of experience in investments and consulting. There are also several engineers and scientists on their team, who lend their expertise to help develop ForwardX’s products.
So, the world of autonomous robotic suitcases may be upon us. But with this product, some people question if that’s even necessary. After all, are people so lazy that they can’t even be bothered to lug a small suitcase anymore?
There is some potential here though, and it’s not all about laziness. For people that have difficulty in lugging around a suitcase, Ovis can be a welcome relief. Even for people that have no issue with towing the weight of a suitcase, it can make things easier. And making life easier is what technology is all about.