At the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, major brands such as Sony and Samsung brought out their newest products for the world to see.
According to Wired, the best gadgets at CES 2017 included Toyota’s self-driving car, LG and Lenovo smart assistants, and Sony’s stunning new OLED TV.
But as we all know, useful can be boring. And it’s among the smaller stalls at CES that the really interesting stuff can be found.
Sure, you don’t think you need a smart toaster, but maybe, just maybe, you do?
This year, The Guardian did a sweep of the smaller stalls and found gems such as a Kyon pet tracker that reveals your pet’s mood and Spinali jeans that give you directions via vibrations.
Most interesting of all was the Cowarobot R1 robotic suitcase, the world’s first “fully autonomous smart suitcase” which follows its user and avoids any obstacle in its path.
You would be forgiven for finding the whole idea a bit silly. And watching the video, a few questions come to mind:
“Won’t it be easy for thieves to snatch the thing?”
“What’s so hard about towing a suitcase with your hands?”
“Can it move autonomously when fully loaded with my stuff? And at what speed?”
“How about battery life?”
Also, “Why am I watching this?”
To be fair, Cowarobot does try to answer some of these questions, but its answers are a little vague. The project’s Indiegogo page simply says that the suitcase “moves at a speed of 4.5 mph” and that it can “go up and down slopes of 15 degrees” and “run 12.5 continuous miles when fully charged”.
Speaking of battery life, the R1’s power bank is actually removable, so you can pop it out at security checks or use it to charge other devices. Just remember to tell the airport security to stay calm while you pop the battery out of your suitcase.
Cowarobot says that the R1 can sense and feel (really?) the world around it thanks to its “CO-EYE”, a patented depth and sonar sensor. The idea is that you can just casually stroll around without worrying about your case. It will follow you using its “CO-MOVE” technology.
If your suitcase wanders too far from home, don’t worry. By tapping the bracelet that comes with your robotic suitcase, you can summon it back to you. Thieves have no chance chasing down something that can do 7 km and hour.
But perhaps the idea isn’t so silly after all. The Indiegogo campaign has already raised over half a million US dollars via 862 backers – smashing the original goal of $USD100,000.
The regular price of the Cowarobot is $USD699 plus shipping and delivery, and is estimated to arrive for the end of Q1.
However, recent comments on the page aren’t very encouraging. In the past month, users have complained about the vagueness of Cowarobot’s communication, the R1’s specs, and delays in the delivery date. For example, user Jermoe Colombain said:
Now we need to know where you stand. Are we going to get these damned suitcase or are you going to refund us? Please, enough communication gadget about CES or Halloween and give us more information about the actual delivery dates.
And user Lim Kay Burn said:
I too think that the updates are too vague. Money has been accepted by you for what seems like a product that simply isn’t close to being ready while you make claims that it is.
You are now within your updated delivery window but show no indication of production even to meet this schedule. Is your concept flawed? Does this only work with an empty bag but fails when the bag is full and loaded?? falling over perhaps? You are making backers angry with lack of information.
This is not the first attempt at overhauling luggage tech. Last year, a similar project called Modobag appeared. It promised to be the world’s first motorised, rideable luggage and it also racked up almost half a million dollars on Indiegogo.
Does that look a tad dangerous to you? An accident waiting to happen? It’s likely that the aviation industry agrees. Or maybe airport staff like to be the only ones allowed to cruise around on those buggy things.
YouTube comments have been disabled for the video, which is almost always a sign that something is amiss. And the comments on Indiegogo tell a story of a product that promised a lot and then got delayed several times.
It looks like there is an alarming trend emerging.
First, you come up with an incredible spin on traditional luggage, then you collect half a million bucks, before delaying the release of your product.
So readers, you have been warned. If you see some super cool luggage that can make pizza or fly like a drone, please think twice before throwing your hard-earned at it.