The world of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, or maybe Pixar’s Wall-e, comes a step closer with the demonstration of suitcases with a mind of their own.

For those unfamiliar with the Discworld novel series, some of the earlier novels feature a tourist, a wizard and the multi-legged magical trunk, called the Luggage, that follows them around, occasionally eating people. At a press conference held in Tokyo on December 4, the American company Travelmate Robotics showed off a suitcase that will do the former, if not the latter.

The Travelmate works via Bluetooth connection and a specially designed phone application (which will be available on Android and iOS) to track your phone as you walk, keeping up with you as you globe-trot or even for shorter journeys out and about. The suitcase is also equipped with sensors that allow it to avoid uneven ground or bumping into objects. Even if you feel the need the need to walk at a brisk pace or break into a light jog, your case should be able to nip along beside you with a claimed top speed of nine kilometres per hour (5.6 miles an hour) and a battery life of up to four hours.

The suitcases, originally funded through crowdfunding website Indiegogo where 1,300 people contributed over US$760,000, will go on sale in April next year, but can be pre-ordered from February. They will be available in three sizes, the imaginatively named S, M and L that will cost $1,099, $1,295 and $1,495 respectively. What do you get for the kind of money that would actually get you a holiday somewhere (might we recommend Japan?), you might ask. The suitcase, which the company claims is the world’s first fully autonomous robot suitcase, comes with fingerprint security, phone tracking, wireless charging and its own internal scales to calculate how much stuff you’re carting about.

▼ The case in point.

The suitcases will be able to run in either the upright or horizontal positions, although Travelmate Robotics have said that it is more stable, and can carry other luggage for you, in the horizontal position. Should you and your loyal companion be parted, the suitcase can be tracked via its GPS tag and your phone app. The LED lights may make it look like a mobile disco, your party robot friend, but are actually there to let you know how much battery life is there and in which direction it’s heading.

▼ The Travelmate will follow you like a faithful hound.

The company makes some impressive claims about the suitcase’s ability to dodge obstacles but, having had my feet run over often enough at airports and train stations by people blithely pulling their wheeled suitcases behind them, it will be interesting to see how they fare somewhere a bit busier than the suspiciously deserted roads and plazas of the promotional videos. When they start being able to eat my enemies like The Luggage is when I’ll start being interested.

Source: Yahoo News Japan via jin115
Images: Travelmate Robotics