P.S. I, for One, Welcome Our New Robot-Luggage Overlords


Not being able to leave well enough alone, after my last post, on the Modobag, I gave another look to the suitcase innovations on Indiegogo.

What I found is frightening, simply frightening.

Four years ago, you may recall, I mentioned hop! “the follow along suitcase.” At the time it was only in a prototype stage, and as you can see in the video below, it was a rather bare-bones, timid-looking prototype, at that.

Speaking about advancements in luggage design, I wrote the following:

Regardless, the evolution of the suitcase continues. When USA Today asked what’s “next on the horizon,” Michele Marini Pittenger, president of the Travel Goods Association, said, “Luggage that packs itself? Now that would be a problem-solver.”

Oh, how our carry-ons have evolved since then. Can you say “robot luggage”?

How about “Cowarobot R1“? That’s the name of “the first and only robotic suitcase,” in the middle of its own Indiegogo campaign.

Yes, you read that correctly, robot luggage! All I can do is wonder how long it will be before these “fully autonomous” carry-ons become self-determining—and evil—and force us to pack our clothes against our will. How long before the “find me function” (which I think is pretty cool) becomes the “track me down function”? (not cool)

It’s difficult to tell from this vantage point whether they will consume us on captive Earth or merely enslave us.  One thing is for certain: There is no stopping them. The android carry-ons will soon be here. . . .

And I for one welcome our new robot-luggage overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted blogger, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground suitcase-packing sweatshops.[*]

Actually, I can see an alternative ending to this scenario, one in which a plucky teen, with sick video-game skills, uses the USB port on a robot carry-on to upload a virus into our would-be mechanized oppressors, thus shutting down the global computer and GPS infrastructure. And with worldwide computer automation halted, our luggage will be rendered powerless and benign. Yay humans!

(But just in case that doesn’t work, and in case they don’t respond well to my overtures, I have my getaway vehicle already picked out . . . .)

[photo: “The World Shall Be Mine . . . ,” by Emiliano Felicissimo, used under a Creative Commons license]


Look, in the Airport! It’s a Carry-On! It’s a Scooter! It’s Modobag!


Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.

When Ralph Waldo Emerson said that (or at least something like that*) in the 1800s, a new-and-improved mousetrap was a suitable metaphor for innovation. I would submit to you that today’s mousetrap may very well be the carry-on bag, and the door is an Indiegogo campaign.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Modobag. (Sorry, I mean the Modobag!)

The Modobag, the creation of Kevin O’Donnell, with the help of Boyd Bruner, is a TSA- and FAA-compliant carry-on bag that you can ride around the airport. It has an electric motor, telescoping handlebar with thumb throttle and hand brake, and professional motorcycle-grade foot pegs—and it can carry your clothes, too.

Here are some of the specs from Modobag’s Indiegogo page:

  • two speed settings—5 mph indoors, 8 mph outdoors
  • ability to carry a person up to 260 lbs
  • 8-mile range (for a 180-lb person)
  • two USB charging ports

Pre-orders for the Modobag are available at Indiegogo for $1,000. The campaign was set up with a modest goal of $50,000, and with two weeks left, it has already blown past a quarter of a million dollars.

According to CNN, O’Donnell doesn’t want to limit his invention to the airport. He wants people to ride it to the train and  use it to navigate conference venues. And he takes it for spins himself in the bike lanes of Chicago.

It all sounds like a great idea to me, but I do have a few concerns . . . where the rubber meets the airport walkway, so to speak. But I think each one is fixable with the simple addition of an accessory.

First, there are the images in the video above of riders leaning into tight Modobag turns. I can imagine middle-aged travelers (like myself) wiping out on the way to Gate 26. Solution? The addition of fold-down wheeled outriggers—a fancy way of saying they need training wheels.

I’m also wondering about trying to pull two, or more, pieces of checked bags on your way to an international flight. A guy only has two hands, and one is already busy with steering, throttling, and braking. Solution? Some kind of proprietary linkage system to form a giant super luggage trolley.

And finally, I’m worried that airport authorities will step in to shut down Modobag riders in the name of safety (for example, see “wiping out” above), much the way that the anti-progress lobby has unfairly hampered the would be life-changing Segway revolution around the globe. Solution? A simple beeping mechanism and pop-up flashing light. Hey, it works for those airport carts.

The bottom line for me, though, is I’m not much of an early adopter. I’m more of a late follower. So just as with wearable luggage, carry-on child carriers and follow-along bags, and even pillow head coverings, to all you risk takers, you trend setters, you beta testers, I say, Lead the way! And as long as you don’t look too silly, I’ll be right there jumping on board. (I promise.)

(“Modobag: World’s First Motorized, Rideable Luggage,” Indiegogo; Matt McFarland, “You Can Now Ride Your Luggage around the Airport,” CNN, July 22, 2016)

*[and now, for quote geeks like me . . .] According to Garson O’Toole of Quote Investigator, the earliest form in print of

Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door

is from “Current Comment,” in The Atlanta Constitution. The passage, titled “The Value of Good Work,” is ascribed to Emerson and was published on May 11, 1882, a few weeks after his death:

If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mouse trap than his neighbors, though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.

Giving credence to Emerson’s authorship of the sentence, or at least the thoughts behind it, is a journal entry that Emerson wrote in 1855, under the heading “Common Fame”:

I trust a good deal to common fame, as we all must. If a man has good corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house,though it be in the woods.

Sarah S. B. Yule and Mary S. Keene include the “If a man . . .” quotation above, crediting it to Emerson, in their book “Borrowings,” compiled in 1989 and published in 1893. The article “The Mousetrap Quotation: The Verdict,” from 1912, quotes Yule telling how she heard it from the lips of Emerson:

To the best of my memory and belief, I copied it in my handbook from an address delivered long years ago, it being my custom to write everything there that I thought particularly good, if expressed in concise form; and when we were compiling “Borrowings” I drew from this old handbook freely. It will seem strange to you, as it does to me, that Emerson never incorporated this in any of his essays. He did use the thought and similar wording, but never exactly the wording, of the quotation I used in “Borrowings.”

(Garson O’Toole, “If You Build a Better Mousetrap the World Will Beat a Path to Your Door,” Quote Investigator, March 24, 2015; “The Mousetrap Quotation: The Verdict,” West Publishing Co’s Docket, Volume 1, West Publishing Company, 1912)

[photo: “Surprising News,” by Edgardo Balduccio, used under a Creative Commons license]

Does This Suitcase Make Me Look Fat? Save Money by Wearing Your Luggage

3652899243_4bd9148ffb_nThe first time I flew overseas, the lady at the counter weighed my carry-on. When she saw that it was a pound or two overweight, she was quick to come up with a solution. Did I have any books or a jacket inside? I could take them out, and she’d re-weigh my bag. I did, and she did, and then I was free to carry them onto the plane separately, or put them right back in the carry-on. Either way, my overall weight was the same—so I can’t vouch for the logic of the change—but I was glad for a workable solution.

But what happens if you’re a lot overweight on your baggage? What if your carry-on looks like a balloon and won’t begin to fit into that metal cage/scales combination next to the check-in line? (You know the thing I’m talking about, the one that’s there just to weed out first-time flyers who might want to turn themselves in.) Or what if you need to leave a whole bag behind? (As in, I’m not going to pay that fee!)

Well that calls for more drastic measures than just carrying a book. It can be done. It’s just that you might need to check your self-esteem at the gate.

Do It Yourself
First, I give you the example of an “unidentified passenger” at China’s Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport. The man, from Kenya, didn’t want to pay for his excess baggage, so he decided to wear it. According to Want China Times, he donned 61 items of clothing, among them 9 pairs of jeans. (Other news outlets report that he was wearing more than 60 shirts with his 9 pairs of pants. We may never know the exact count. In intense stories like this, accuracy is often the first thing sacrificed.)

The obese-looking man’s scheme was uncovered, layer by layer, when he set off the metal detector, prompting a full-body search. Apparently, (and this is where you can learn a valuable lesson) the batteries, USB sticks, and toys he was carrying weren’t in the pockets of his outermost garment.

(“Layer Hater: Guangzhou Airport Blocks Man Wearing 60 Items of Clothing,” Want China Times, December 16, 2012)

If you admire this gentleman’s thinking—but the sumo-wrestler look isn’t quite your thing—maybe you’re part of Jaktogo‘s demographic. The Jaktogo, along with its cousins, the Dresstogo and Ponchotogo, is a jacket that holds a myriad of items in its 14 pockets. It folds into a bag, complete with carrying straps, so you can wear your “coat” through the gate and, once on board the flight, place your “bag” in the overhead bin. Or you can follow the lead of Irish engineer John Power, the Jaktogo’s inventor, and carry your fully-loaded coat by its straps through the gate and spar with the attendant over definitions. That’s not my idea of fun, but then again, I do have to remember, “Only fools pay for extra luggage, clever people have a Jaktogo!!”

Rufus Roo
Looking for something a little cheaper? You might want to try the Rufus Roo Big Pocket Travel Jacket. The Rufus Roo has only six pockets and doesn’t convert into a piece of luggage, but it’s designed by Rebecca Morter of the London College of Fashion, and some would say it’s more stylish.

Keep in mind, though, that when it comes to style, you are still wearing your luggage.

[photo: “Heavy Luggage,” by David Bakker, used under a Creative Commons license]

Keep Calm and Roll On Your Carry-On

USA Today reports that 2012 marks the 25th anniversary of the Rollaboard suitcase. After seeing passengers struggling with their luggage, wheeled trolleys, and bungee cords, Bob Plath, a pilot at Northwest Airlines came up with the idea to create a suitcase with a built-in handle and wheels.

Now, two and a half decades later, two new inventors have come up with a product that they hope will change traveling again. The creators are Darryl Lenz, a flight attendant, and her husband, Randy. After they watched parents struggling with their luggage, strollers, and children, they designed a chair that straps on to your wheeled luggage. It’s called the “Ride-On Carry-On.”

We first saw this product on ABC’s Shark Tank, where the Lenzes won backing from investor Barbara Corcoran. Since then, they’ve been featured on several TV shows, including The View, Good Morning America, and Inside EditionClips from these shows are available on the Ride-On Carry-On website, but my favorite is this one. Not only does it introduce the product, but it also has that great YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE ONE! infomercial style.

So what are you waiting for? ORDER YOURS TODAY! (Luggage not included.)

But then again, maybe you don’t have kids young enough to ride on your carry-on. Or maybe you’re just not sold on the idea. You’re probably not alone. It’s not easy being an early adapter.

In fact, there’s at least one person who still isn’t a fan of the Rollaboard-style carry-on. Richard Bangs, host of American Public Television’s Richard Bangs’ Adventures with Purpose, tells USA Today that the Rollaboard marked “the beginning of human devolution.” According to Bangs,

It used to be, as we ran through airports carrying our bags,  there was a measure of physical exertion that countered, to a degree, the hours spent motionless in an airline seat. It toned muscles and prepared us for the adventure ahead.

Regardless, the evolution of the suitcase continues. When USA Today asked what’s “next on the horizon,” Michele Marini Pittenger, president of the Travel Goods Association, said, “Luggage that packs itself? Now that would be a problem-solver.”

While that’s probably not going to happen soon, what about luggage that moves itself?

Cutting-edge travelers, I present you hop! “the following suitcase.” Hop! is the brain child of Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez, a designer who has studied in Canada, India, Chile, Spain, and Sweden. (Hmmm. . . . I wonder if one of these could work with a Roll-On Carry-On. . . .)

(Jayne Clark, “Rollaboard Luggage Celebrates a Wheelie Big Birthday,” USA Today, August 16, 2012)

[photo: “Blue Suitcase,” by Drew Coffman, used under a Creative Commons license]