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October 16, 2018

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Is it a suitcase or a robot? Luggage rolls along with the latest technology

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Mick Akers

Travelmate Robotics’ suitcase automatically trails its owner when paired with a smartphone app.

Looking to take some of the hassle out of traveling, a San Francisco-based startup has developed a high-tech solution to lugging around a suitcase.

Travelmate Robotics' fully autonomous suitcase employs Bluetooth technology, sensors and an onboard camera to trail its owner when paired with a smartphone app.

“Different sensors (are used) not only to track you, but to help prevent the suitcase from running into objects or people,” said Maximillian Kovtun, Travelmate Robotics president. “You have to pair the Travelmate and the phone through Bluetooth and register the serial number so nobody else can pair to it.”

The suitcase, demonstrated at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas on Thursday, can roll while positioned vertically or horizontally and travel at speeds of up to 6.75 mph. It can also transport other bags or items placed on top of it, up to 70 pounds. It is equipped with a GPS chip, so the owner can track its location.

“It happens — luggage gets misplaced,” Kovtun said. “If you land in Dallas, you can look on your phone and see your luggage is in Miami.”

The removable, rechargeable battery, which is Transportation Security Administration-approved, takes 90 minutes to fully charge when the power is completely spent. The suitcase can operate up to four hours while moving and up to 100 hours while idle. The battery also has two USB ports for charging other portable devices.

LED lights on the suitcase’s exterior can be programmed to display dozens of colors and light patterns; its wheels and wheel covers are customizable as well. The Travelmate, which starts at $1,099 for the smallest size (21.7-by7.9-by-15.7 inches), can be controlled by a digital joystick on the app, allowing users to use the suitcase like a remote-control vehicle.

Additional features are planned. They include home security-monitoring via the camera; games; a concierge mode for various tasks; and a caregiver mode in which sensors can alert a physician when the owner’s vital signs are abnormal.

“Because of our background in robotics, we really want to make this a fully featured robot,” he said. “In many ways, it is already. But we want to keep adding features.”