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Why you’ll soon want to take a robot on holiday with you

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Moya Lothian-McLean
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A year after finishing its first round of crowd-funding (where its creators raised in excess of £500,000 from more than 1,000 backers), the innovative Travelmate robot suitcase is now available for the general public to order. But is it worth replacing your Samsonite? 

What is it? 

It’s a fully autonomous suitcase that pairs with your phone then follows you through the airport, without you needing to push, pull or pick it up. It can move at up to 6.75mph and detects and avoids obstacles like benches or small children.

How does it work?

It recognises voice commands (you can tell it to ‘follow’ and ‘stay’.) Or, if you feel awkward chatting to your suitcase, it also recognises hand gestures (beckon it with your finger and it’ll spring into action). It can travel upright or flat – when flat, you can put other bags on top of it, and it’ll wheel them along too.

How secure is it?

Not only does it have a touch-enabled lock system that only opens for your fingerprint, it also has GPS so that you can track it at all times through the app. If it senses that it’s no longer following you, it’ll lock its wheels so that it’s harder to steal (unless thieves decide to pick it up…).

 It can move at up to 6.75mph and detects and avoids obstacles like benches or small children.

Stylist road tests a futuristic yoga class 

Our new yoga guru is a machine. No, really. It’s an actual machine… Moya Lothian-McLean tries it out. 

Friday afternoon and I’m off to calm my end-of-the-week nerves with a relaxing session of yoga. But when I get there my yogi isn’t quite the bendy instructor I had in mind. For a start, it’s made of aluminium. And it’s only 40cm tall. Alpha – or Alpha 1 Pro if you want to use its formal name – is the product of a crowd-funded campaign by Chinese company UBTech. A humanoid ‘house’ robot, it’s able to read bedtime stories such as Alice In Wonderland, send emails and post to social media. It’s designed to slot into your home like Mary Poppins crossed with Optimus Prime. 

But the Stylist team are here to experience the small robot’s zen side. Alpha has around 20 pre-programmed movements to work through and its companion app allows us to input further positions to try out. Realising a robot is more flexible than you is a tough pill to swallow, but as we move from a reverse plank to warrior III, it becomes obvious that proper knees give its human students an edge – Alpha does have a tendency to topple sometimes. By the end of the 45-minute session I was covered in a light sheen and my back – where I’d been suffering from a suspected trapped nerve – felt noticeably looser and has continued to improve.

It’s designed to slot into your home like Mary Poppins crossed with Optimus Prime. 

At £499, Alpha is considerably more expensive than a class at my local yoga studio or a free YouTube video. But for anyone wanting a piece of cutting-edge robotics that can also do downward dog, it’s certainly worth considering. 

Images: Gemma Day

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Moya Lothian-McLean

Moya Lothian-McLean is Stylist’s editorial assistant where she spends her time inventing ways to shoehorn Robbie Williams into pieces. A reoffending dancefloor menace, a weekend finds her taking up too much space at disco nights around the city and subsequently recovering with dark sunglasses and late brunch the next day. 

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