A Robotic Suitcase
Travelmate Robotics has built the first robotic, self-moving suitcase.
It’s the only robotic suitcase compliant with all airline regulators, and features proprietary Artificial Intelligence to follow the traveler wherever he or she goes.
Travelmate is targeting the market for consumer robotics, which is projected to reach $17 billion globally by 2023, according to Market Research Future. Specifically, the company is targeting frequent travelers, early adopters of technology, and what it describes as “robot enthusiasts” between the ages of 25 and 50.
In just three years, Travelmate generated more than $100,000 in pre-sales, received approval for a non-provisional patent on its product, and was named “Best Product” at the 2018 Travel Goods Show.
Now, the company is on track to become profitable in 2019, and is raising capital to increase production.
Travelmate compares its robotic suitcase to “R2D2,” in reference to the popular droid from the “Star Wars” films that followed and assisted hero Luke Skywalker.
Travelmate’s suitcases don’t require any hardware accessories or Wi-Fi connections. The device simply connects to a user’s phone via the Travelmate mobile app. It can be placed into “Follow Me” mode, controlled using the app, or by using voice commands. The suitcases can also be carried like traditional luggage.
Notably, the suitcase features a proprietary movement system. It uses AI to continuously calculate the distance between itself and the traveler. It also calculates the speed at which the traveler is moving and mirrors it to keep up. The suitcase has a top speed of nearly 7 miles per hour, and can travel standing vertically or horizontally.
Each suitcase features obstacle detection and avoidance features. For example, if someone walks in front of the case, it will stop or maneuver around the obstacle and rejoin its user. Currently, this type of obstacle detection is only available on select cars like the Tesla S Model and advanced robots.
In addition, the suitcase automatically speeds up and slows down based on different surfaces. In other words, the robot will work harder to move itself when traveling on carpet or outdoors in order to keep up with the user.
Another feature of the suitcase is a built-in dynamic voice response system. Each time the device powers on, detects an obstacle, or “pairs” with a user’s smartphone, it will elicit a voice response. This alerts travelers to potential issues, and enables those with certain disabilities to use the suitcase.
A series of anti-theft measures are also built in. If the robot is moving away from the traveler while in “Follow Me” mode, it will automatically block its wheels, requiring someone attempting to steal the suitcase to carry it. In addition, users can set off an audible alarm, and track the location of the suitcase through the mobile app.
With respect to its design, each suitcase has a built-in scale so travelers know how much their luggage weighs, and features a “smart” Bluetooth lock that’s controlled using the app. The handle on the suitcase has indents to hold clothes hangers, and can be used as a camera mount.
The suitcase is powered via a removable power bank, and can run for up to 4 hours in continuous autonomous use. In standby mode, a single charge can last several days. In addition to powering the device, the power bank can be used to charge electronics like smartphones and laptops.
Travelmate’s suitcases are fully customizable. The interior lining can be replaced with different fabrics, and the wheels can be swapped out to enable easier travel across various surfaces.
All told, electronic and mechanical components make up just 5% of the device, leaving 95% for clothes and personal items. Travelmate’s suitcases come in three sizes and weigh roughly 9, 11, and 13 pounds, respectively.
It costs Travelmate $354 to manufacture each suitcase. The company offers wholesale pricing at $599 per unit, and retails each unit for between $1,099 and $1,495 on its website.
This product is the only robotic suitcase approved for use on all airlines, and meets compliance standards for the Federal Aviation Administration, Transportation Security Administration, and International Air Transport Association (IATA).
In January 2018, the IATA banned “smart” luggage. According to Travelmate, this was because companies producing this type of luggage didn't have products with removable batteries. But Travelmate’s product didn't fall under this ban because of its removable battery.
In fact, according to the company, the IATA is creating a new logo specifically for Travelmate’s luggage to inform airport security members that it’s fully compliant.
Travelmate launched in 2016. The following year, it raised $800,000 through a rewards-based crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. In addition, it received $110,000 in direct sales from pre-orders through its website.
The company was invited to showcase its robot at the Cite des Sciences et de I’Industrie in Paris. This is the largest science and technology museum in France. It was also invited by the city of Barcelona, Spain to conduct a presentation of its company and product.
Currently, Travelmate is working with several movie studios to incorporate its suitcase into upcoming films.
To produce its product, the company currently works with more than a dozen factories throughout China, each of which work on various components that make up Travelmate’s robotic suitcases.
Realizing the potential complications and added costs that could occur as a result of the trade war between the U.S. and China, Travelmate is looking to set up assembly plants in the U.S.
In addition, the company’s future plans include purchasing additional manufacturing and proprietary product testing equipment.
At the same time, Travelmate will focus on adding more advanced features to its suitcases. For example, travelers will soon be able to use the voice feature to do things like make hotel reservations, book flights, and purchase tickets to events.
Also, the suitcase will soon have a home security feature. Users will be able to leave their suitcase at home or a hotel, and if it senses someone inside, it will alert them through the smartphone app.
Maximillian has guided Travelmate since its inception.
In addition to his role with the company, he is a member of the International Air Transport Association, the regulatory body that handles regulations for more than 293 airlines.
He earned an Associate’s degree in English and a Bachelor’s degree in Astronomy from the University of California, Santa Barbara.