My heart aches for this Segway-inspired auto-following suitcase that won’t stop falling over

Traveling is supposed to be a luxurious experience, but the reality of travel is beyond what you see on the internet. Smart luggage is supposed to change all that by letting you keep track of your bags and helping you feel at ease at the airport. Last week, 90Fun announced an autonomous suitcase that uses Segway’s self-balancing technology and a remote control to follow you around, leaving your hands free. We took 90Fun’s Puppy 1 suitcase for a spin at CES, and it’s clear that the vision of hassle-free travel is still some ways away.

 

We were only able to play with a prototype of the Puppy 1, which means that the design is not yet final. For example, it currently follows you by pairing with remote that uses ultra-wide band connection. 90Fun says this remote will eventually become a clip that you can stick on your backpack or a bracelet that you can wear. When it rolled in a straight line, the Puppy 1 ran smoothly, though it sometimes sped up way too quickly for my comfort. The prototype also struggled when the remote wasn’t directly pointed to the top of the bag. When I turned too far, it would lose the connection to the remote and begin to run in the opposite direction. I was crushed. This puppy doesn’t love me.

 

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge
IF THE BAG IS GRABBED, IT SETS OFF ALARMS WHICH COULD CAUSE QUITE A PANDEMONIUM AT THE AIRPORT
As a prototype, the Puppy 1 doesn’t currently have important features like obstacle avoidance. Once it ran into people in its path, the bag just froze or began rolling into people and falling over. (After watching it tumble a handful of times, the outer shell does appear to be decently durable. The concrete kiss sounds are still hard to listen to, though.) If the bag is grabbed while it’s supposed to be following you or trips over, the remote buzzes and the bag alarms which could cause quite a pandemonium at a crowded airport. The Puppy 1 is also designed as a carry-on bag, which means it’ll also need to have a removable battery to make it past major US airlines’ requirements.

The Puppy 1 isn’t the only auto-following bag out there. A few other companies have tried, including the Cowarobot R1 suitcase and ForwardX’s CX-1 that use a combination of facial and body recognition and depth sensors. So far, all these bags seem more like proof of concepts than gadget of the year. A market exists for suitcases that cater better to those with mobility impairments, but I am not yet convinced this is the solution.

90Fun plans to take preorders for the Puppy 1 during the second half of 2018 in a crowdfunding project, which means it’s got some time to work out the kinks. For now, think of it as an actual, untrained puppy. In theory, it’s cute that a dog will follow you wherever you go, but pair that with the idea of enlisting a puppy to drag your luggage around the airport… and it’s about as useful as it sounds.

 

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