Autonomous luggage maker ForwardX Robotics today announced it has raised $10 million to bring its suitcase Ovis to market. At $399, the luggage can move a maximum 6.2 miles per hour and will ship to its first customers in late 2018. ForwardX was founded in 2016, but its luggage initially grabbed the world’s attention in January at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018 in Las Vegas.
The 9.9 lb suitcase is made of polypropylene and carbon fiber and is able to follow you by deploying computer vision that tracks your body and face, even if you are momentarily out of sight. Though Ovis has been tested and found to be useful in environments outside airports, like city streets, its battery only lasts for four hours of use, and it must be switched to the old-fashioned manual mode on escalators since it cannot yet handle moving stairs.
“It’s a sight-follow suitcase,” ForwardX COO Yaxin Guan told VentureBeat in an interview. “You don’t need to pull it — it just auto follows you.” Guan said that it generally stays next to you, but when there’s an obstacle it can automatically move behind you so that it avoids obstacles using “the same strategy as you do, and once it passes an obstacle it will come back to your side.”
The luggage is powered by the Robot Operating System (ROS) and includes a GPS locator that can be followed via an Ovis app for iOS and Android smartphones.
ForwardX intends to focus initially on luggage, but the company is also exploring the creation of mobility machines for last-mile deliveries, like the kind Marble uses for restaurant deliveries and Starship Technologies uses on corporate and university campuses. ForwardX is also in talks with ecommerce companies like JD.com and DHL to make robots capable of carrying 100 kilograms and following factory workers, Guan said.
The $10 million round was led by CDH Fund with participation from Eastern Bell Venture Capital.
ForwardX has 100 employees primarily based in Beijing, with sales and marketing offices in San Jose, California.