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A Suitcase that can follow you
Published on: 2018-06-06
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050 2The annual trade show CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is a deluge of smart appliances, many of which do things totally unnecessary--case in point, the talking A.I.-powered toilet--but there are some products that legitimately excite the masses and prove to be of real-world use.

Forward X founder Nicholas Chee with the Ovis a self driving robot suitcaseForward X founder Nicholas Chee with the Ovis, a self-driving robot suitcase

A Beijing startup named Forward X is hoping its self-driving robot suitcase belongs in the latter camp. Having made its debut at the Las Vegas trade show to positive coverage, the Ovis is ready to hit the global market with a crowdfunding campaign that starts today.

The Ovis eyeThe Ovis' eye

At first glance, the Ovis looked like any other suitcase: it's rectangular, black, has four wheels. But upon closer examination, I could see it has two USB ports for charging gadgets and a 170-degree wide-angle camera lens that is essentially the Ovis' eye. That, combined with the facial recognizing, body movement-tracking algorithm developed by Chee, allows the Ovis to follow its owner around without additional assistance.

052At CES, the suitcase could only follow a person from behind. Since then, the company has improved functionality so the suitcase can now follow its owner side-by-side, and according to Chee, avoid obstacles (aka moving humans) that may get in the way.

The Ovis body movement tracking algorithm is successfully tracking my body partsThe Ovis' body movement tracking algorithm is successfully tracking my body parts

Chee, 37, said he started Forward X two years ago after a decade of working as hardware and software engineer for various companies in China because he "wanted a companion during his travels."

053The Ovis is not the first suitcase of this type, however. A company named Travelmate launched something similar (also via crowdfunding) a year ago. But the Travelmate sells for $1,100, the Ovis' crowdfunding price is $399, and final retail price will be around $700.

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