R1 – The First Robotic Suitcase

COWAROBOT is crowdfunding a suitcase that avoids objects and follows you.

Tommie He and Rolf Pfeifer lead a team of engineers that brings robotic technology to consumers at COWAROBOT. Their main goal is bringing robotics into the products we use every day. The team’s current project is R1, what they call the world’s first robotic suitcase. A successful Indiegogo campaign is currently running to fund their first run of production parts.

The R1 uses what appear to be ultrasonic sensors, a gps unit, and a retractable wheel system to control its mobility. The campaign page calls this “multi-sensor fusion technology” and the CO-EYE, which are not the best descriptions when trying to understand how a new robot operates.

Maximum speed for the suitcase is 4.5 miles per hour, and the unit is shown moving up ramps in the campaign video. Published specifications say that the case can travel on slopes of up to 15 degrees, and run 12.5 miles on one full charge. The battery is lithium ion and rated at 96.5 Watt hours, with 5 Volt and 4.0 Ampere output. The battery has been tested with the FCC, CQC, UN38.3 and UL2054+UL60950 standards to make sure that users can travel with their robotic companion.

The full unit weights 10.58 pounds and the design is based on the idea that the robotic parts should be secondary to the functional storage of the bag. The campaign page says the bag is 96% suitcase, 4% robot.

R1 is packed full of features and abilities. The robotic wheels descend and retract to stay out of the way when not needed. Using the app a ‘find me now’ feature tells the case to come to the user. A smart lock talks to the user’s bracelet control and indicates its locking status with an LED. The unit also contains a USB port for charging your smartphone, because any smart accessory is almost required to do that at this point.

The campaign page is fully developed and flashy. There are great exploded views of the locking mechanism, the active wheel units and the sensor configuration. An infographic shows some development sketches along with pictures of the case’s construction.

Eventually the question of whether or not a robotic suitcase is needed pops up. Crowd control and the image of a miniaturized lonely Segway pop into my head thinking about the R1 in a crowded airport. Whether or not we need it, and whether or not the world is ready, first units are expected to ship in November, 2016.