In 1969, Buzz Aldrin’s boots hit the lunar surface just 63 years after the Wright brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk.
But it wasn’t until 1970 that Bernard Sadow had the bright idea to put wheels on a suitcase and patent “rolling luggage” two years later. In 1987, a Northwest Airlines pilot and hobbyist tinkerer named Robert Plath invented the Rollaboard, the classic two-wheeled “carry-on” form factor most of us are familiar with today. Four-wheeled “spinner” luggage only came to market in the early 2000’s.
It took over 45 years, but eliminating the need for a pull-handle is one small step for a suitcase and one giant leap for luggage-kind.
ForwardX Robotics offers a solution to a problem few of us knew we had: namely, dragging a suitcase around.
According to the company, its $799 (MSRP), ten pounds, GPS and 3G-enabled Ovis carry-on is the first fully-autonomous suitcase that follows alongside its owner, totally hands-free. What technology enables this spooky action at a distance, you ask? Its “side-follow” feature is driven by a combination of visual simultaneous localization and mapping (VSLAM, for acronym aficionados) and computer vision algorithms to control its motors and steer the device.
With a removable battery and approved locking mechanism, the device is, for now, compliant with TSA and other air safety regulatory requirements.
Today, the Beijing-headquartered company formally announced a $10 million Series A round co-led by CDH Venture and Eastern Bell Venture Capital. Prior to the funding announced today, the company raised $1 million in an angel round closed in December 2016 shortly after its inception. This round would bring the company’s total venture funding to $11 million USD. The company has launched a pre-order campaign to further finance initial production.
ForwardX Robotics will use its capital to drive three key initiatives: further develop its computer vision and self-driving technologies; expand operations in China and at its newly-opened San Jose office; and “[support] the company’s other consumer products and warehouse self-driving vehicles initiatives,” according to a statement from a spokesperson.
Crunchbase News has previously covered the funding landscape of autonomous vehicle technology, but, admittedly, we didn’t anticipate that it would trickle all the way down to self-driving suitcases. To be sure, it sounds like the Ovis may be a first step for ForwardX Robotics toward a broader portfolio of autonomous vehicles; however, such an amusing entry into the market won’t soon be forgotten.
iStockPhoto / sorbetto
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