In a nice reminder that not every harbinger of the coming Robot Apocalypse has to be all murderbots and terror, The Economist has a new feature this week discussing the coming of the self-driving robot suitcase. There are apparently a number of robotics firms working to crack this particular nut at the moment, striving to equip the world’s shoppers and travelers with a suitcase they don’t have to lug everywhere (or, god help you, try to wheel through the murderous foot traffic of a municipal airport).
The highest-profile of these new cargo bots is Gita, from Piaggio Fast Forward, which accomplishes what is, by far, the most important metric for bringing a new, potentially life-destroying robot into the world: It’s cute. Also, it apparently knows how to follow a custom-designed wearable (i.e., a robo-belt), allowing it to trail behind users as it learns new environments. (Once it has a map of the area, it can navigate it on its own.) The upshot of the whole thing is that we’ll apparently soon have a society in which carrying stuff is a relic of a dim and barbaric past (albeit with more “tripping over adorable robots” concerns than our ancestors ever had to deal with).
Several companies are also discussing adapting the suitcases for delivery purposes, sending them off, sans human operator, to bring people their shopping or food. To us, that sounds like an invitation for people to lure these things into dark alleys and crack them open to feast on the sweet Chinese food or Amazon deliveries inside, but presumably the designers will come up with adequate security features to protect the cargo. (Maybe put guns on the robots? Wait, no, now we’re headed down a darker path again…)