Even if you love to travel, carrying the bags that the act entails is surely one of the worst tasks included in the whole process.
At the time when tourism was so expensive that only the elite could afford it – a reality which remained essentially until the post-war period – there were employees (the servants…) for carry luggage. With the democratization of travel made possible by the growth of liberal economies, first, and when authoritarian regimes finally opened borders to at least some of their citizens, global traffic reached unthinkable figures in the middle of the 20th century.
As a result, the amount of baggage carried has increased exponentially. And the vast majority continued to be transported, on short journeys, by human power.
Until 1970, American Bernard Sadow had the simple idea of putting wheels and a handle in his suitcase to pull it around. It occurred to him at the airport in Puerto Rico, as he was returning from Aruba, West Indies, with his wife and children, and he had two heavy suitcases to carry. Brilliant idea!
Simply not. He will say to CNN, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the invention: “I showed [o protótipo] to all the big stores in New York and various retailers and everyone said it was crazy stuff. “Nobody wants to pull a wheeled luggage! “People just didn’t think that way.”
Moreover, carrying the weight of suitcases “was a manly thing”, Sadow continues, giving as the main reason for his invention – which he managed to patent in 1972, under the number 3,653,474 for “Rolling luggage”, in the USA – took a few years to find its place in the sun.
In 2010, when this interview took place, Sadow was 85 years old. He will die the following year, but he will have plenty of time to see the success of his invention. As for the patent, however, it didn’t do him much good. Less than two years after the registration, writes Forbes, several manufacturers have realized the potential of the idea and have found solutions to circumvent the registration. Today, according to this economic magazine, the suitcase market is worth more than 23 billion euros.
Reinvent the wheel… with intelligence
It is to another North American, a Northwest Airlines pilot, that we owe the “handbag” with wheels and handle as we know it today. In 1987, tired of walking from airport to airport with heavy suitcases or impractical bags, Robert Plath slipped into his garage and finally found the solution to his problem. And it has made life easier for millions of people.
Plath transformed the traditional suitcase into an upright position, allowing better control of its movement, added a retractable plastic handle and, of course, wheels at the bottom. Rollarboard was born, which he would register and sell under the Travelpro luggage brand – which continues to exist, with high quality products.
The format, that one, has been reproduced wholesale by everyone. Including the most advanced generations of luggage, which promise to make our lives as easy as previous innovations. One day…
Reinvent the wheel… with artificial intelligence
Some even advertise that they can already be purchased, but only one copy is delivered to customers. Cowa Robot launched a crowdfunding campaign promising the “R1: The first and only robotic suitcase”, which accompanies the owner alone anywhere. In the promotional videos, he even appears to ride next to the owner.
It was 2016 and the Chinese startup, which had a target of 455,000 euros, raised nearly 568,000. And, in fact, it was delivering (at least a few) bags to buyers. Some took to social media to say they were disappointed.
Firstly because the suitcase is heavy – of course. It must include motor, battery, etc. “The suitcase alone weighs 6.2kg,” writes one buyer on Reddit, “meaning I only have 800g left to reach the weight limit for the overhead compartments of the plane.” But some like: “Yes, it’s not perfect, but it works! She follows me!”
What he doesn’t do, say, is walk alongside the owner, as the promo videos show. The system consists of using a Bluetooth bracelet which acts as an electronic “bait” so that the bag knows where to go.
Much more sophisticated would be those of Travelmate Robotics, which at least three years ago promised robotic suitcases which, despite looking similar to what we are used to seeing in modern luggage, would contain artificial intelligence systems if sophisticated that they would not only follow the owner, because they would always know where they are, thanks to GPS. Additionally, they would discover the owner through the mobile app and avoid obstacles using a set of built-in sensors similar to those used in robot vacuums.
Small problem: after crowdfunding operations (more than one million euros in 2021) and the startup announcing that it has the bags for sale on its website, not a single delivered unit is known. The DN contact request to the company was not answered. His Twitter account was even suspended…
There is even a third robotics company in this market. The Chinese ForwardX – which, according to VentureBeat, has already secured more than 9 million euros in venture capital – has announced the creation of the Ovis suitcase, similar to the Cowa Robot model, but which swears, this one, that it is capable of going on the owner’s side, and another model, the Puppy1, which would also work as a personal form of transportation, like a Segway. But we don’t know if these articles will ever see the light of day.
Reinvent the wheel… without built-in intelligence
What already exists is the suitcase which is a scooter. Modobag costs around 1400 euros (excluding taxes and postage) and was created to take you and your weekend clothes with you.
“Invented by Chicago-based entrepreneur and avid traveler Kevin O’Donnell,” the product’s official website reads, “the idea came to him as he was pushing kids on his suitcase through the airport. and thought, “But why don’t we just walk over our luggage and get it where we want it faster and with less stress?!” Motorcycle builder friend Boyd Bruner liked the project and Modobag was born.
A full charge of the battery allows you to travel about 9 kilometers at about 12 km/h. In principle, this is more than enough to get to any gate at the airport.
As for getting away from the legs of other passengers or huge queues, it will depend exclusively on the driver, in this case. Already avoid these steps which, in some airports (we are looking at you, Humberto Delgado…), seem to appear out of nowhere… even the most sophisticated artificial intelligence on the planet will probably not be able to do it.