Drive your suitcase around with Denso's in-wheel system

Sure, your suitcase may have wheels, but can it be driven around?

At Japan’s Ceatec 2014 tech expo, automotive components maker Denso has been demonstrating an in-wheel motor system concept that can move relatively light loads around at the touch of a smartphone or tablet.

The X-mobility system consists of a platform equipped with either three or four wheels depending on the setup. Each of the spherical wheels contains a motor along with a battery, a decelerator, a controller, sensors and a Bluetooth communications module.

The device can rotate in place as its wheels use infrared sensors to communicate their position to one another. A smartphone and tablet app called X-mobi can control the wheeled system, which can carry up to 15 kilograms.

Aside from moving luggage around, it could be used as a mobile platform for shopping carts, walkers, hospital beds and compact robots, according to Denso. A personal mobility device like the Honda Uni-Cub might also be possible.

At a Ceatec demonstration, a staffer swiped a tablet linked to the X-mobility system with his thumbs, causing the platform to rotate in place and then move around.

“We wanted to bring our automotive technology outside vehicles for potential new applications,” a Denso spokesman said. “We’re interested in hearing the reactions of visitors and will then decide on a course of development.”

The device could find use in facilities such as airports, shopping malls and factories, but would require a system to recharge its batteries, which currently last about three hours on a charge.

Denso, which makes airbag sensors, air conditioners and other vehicle parts, said it doesn’t have any plans for commercializing the X-mobility platform yet, but will continue to develop it.

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