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

The X-mobility motorized wheel concept can be controlled by mobile devices

Denso showed off its X-mobility in-wheel motor system concept at the Ceatec 2014 tech expo outside Tokyo this week.

Denso showed off its X-mobility in-wheel motor system concept at the Ceatec 2014 tech expo outside Tokyo this week.

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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