Why won’t my suitcase leave me alone?!?

Is anyone ever really relaxed when they’re rushing to an airport terminal to catch a flight? It’s one of the most stressful situations there is in the modern world. Most likely [if you live in the US], you’ve spent what seemed like an eternity waiting for some iffy-looking TSA agent to grope you and rifle through your bags, and now you’re afraid that you won’t get to the gate on time. All that stands between you and the door being shut on your plane is miles and miles of bad looking carpet…oh, and lots of other people who are in your way…who are also probably rushing to catch their flight. You attempt to pull an OJ [the Hertz-commercial-running-in-the-airport OJ, not the possibly-kill-people-and-flee-in-a-friend’s-Ford Bronco OJ], but you look like an idiot, since you’re trying to run with bags in hand, and maybe dragging a suitcase. If only you didn’t have to physically hold your luggage, you’d get to the gate with time to spare, right?

Spanish designer Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez has created a prototype of a motorized, autonomous suitcase named Hop!, that follows its owner wherever he or she goes. Let’s watch this cheerful video on how it works!

hop! the following suitcase from rodrigo garcía on Vimeo.

The Hop! suitcase has motors inside which run tractor treads on the bottom. Your smartphone connects with the suitcase via Bluetooth, and sensors in the luggage determine where that signal is originating, and follows it. It’s like some awkward little Bluetooth-signal-following robot…that also holds your clothes…AND MOVES INCREDIBLY SLOWLY.

Seriously, did you see the speed of that suitcase? If you think you’re going to catch a flight with your suitcase going that fast, you’re dreaming. Also, if you happen to walk faster than your bag, and the bag can’t read the signal from your phone…

If the signal is lost the user is alerted by the vibration of the phone and suitcase locks itself.

Your phone will vibrate, and this bag will just sit there. That’s not annoying at all, especially when you’ve still got 1.2 miles until you hit Concourse C, Gate 245.

I think the big question is “Why??” Why would someone create a suitcase that moves on it’s own and follows you?

If a suitcase can move by itself, besides facilitating the lives of a large number of travellers, families, disabled people, … could also spare all the elements that moves externally the baggage (conveyor belts , carts, …)

If the suitcase is autonomous, then we don’t have to carry it…okay, that works. But the way this suitcase moves in the video, I think that point is moot. Let’s face it: a suitcase that moves that slowly is eventually going to be picked up and carried. He also states that because the suitcase moves on it’s own, we will no longer have to employ devices like conveyor belts and carts to move the baggage. Okay, now you’re delusional. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the suitcase moves at a fairly brisk pace. And, as the designer states:

The bags can be programmed to follow one to another or are controlled jointly by the staff that handles the baggage at airports or stations.

Can you imagine a strange gaggle of suitcases following each other, and following an airport bag handler, who then leads them on the runway, to load up into a plane? Yeah, I can’t. Well, actually, I can, but to me, it would look more like a bunch of random suitcases in a line, with some of them probably fallen over, unable to move, as others leave them behind. That’s what happens in a caravan of suitcases. Not everyone will survive get to the chopper plane.

“Your neediness is suffocating me!”, exclaimed Rodrigo angrily to his suitcase. “I…I’m sorry. I just need some time…to think about…things…to think about…us…”

As an engineering experiment, the Hop! is great. It demonstrates Bluetooth technology applied to something other than headsets and speakers. It utilizes systems to enable us to basically be lazy, and not have to carry our bag. But let’s get real: this is not even close to being practical. The suitcase is probably a lot heavier than normal suitcases, since it houses batteries, motors, and tractor tread assemblies used for mobility. That also takes up room in the suitcase, meaning it doesn’t hold as much as a non-motorized suitcase of the same size. The suitcase moves really slowly in the video, and even if it moved at double the speed of the video, it probably still wouldn’t be able to keep up with a person walking at a brisk pace through a crowded airport. Also, do you really think security would allow autonomous robotic luggage containing batteries and circuitry and tractor treads onto the concourse? And think about if the suitcase lost signal to its owner’s smartphone, and the owner didn’t notice. The Hop! would just stop where it is, and lock itself. There would essentially be a strange, locked, black, electronic-filled suitcase sitting on the concourse. That probably wouldn’t trigger any emergency situation at all.

The Hop! is a fun exercise in technology, but it’s not practical, and doesn’t really solve any problems for travelers. If you have trouble carrying your bags at the airport, you’re probably much better off not taking a bag, and instead should just wear all your clothes at once.