Moving? Students Devise A Smarter Way To Pack Boxes

Carnegie Mellon students partner with Ford on a conceptual scanner that catalogs your stuff, making packing–and unpacking–a cinch.

Moving is the worst. Even if you’ve got the cash to pay for professional help, you’re still left with that sinking feeling six months later that some heirloom was lost at the bottom of a long-gone cardboard box.


Could there be a better way? A concept called Argo, by a group of Carnegie Mellon students working in partnership with Ford, may be it. Argo looks like a handheld scanner that you’d see at the checkout counter of a clothing store, but you actually set it on the corner of a box that you’re packing, and it automatically catalogs each item that goes in. Basically, Argo tracks your packing to create a realtime inventory of what’s located where.

Scannable tags help you identity the exact contents of every box, providing a popup list. And each box can be tagged with its intended location. Rather than writing “Living Room” with a Sharpie on the side of a box, you can actually assign each box an exact destination on the floor plan of your new home. Moving becomes a lot easier.

Of course, camera systems like the Microsoft Kinect–which could theoretically be set up to track where you place everything in your house all the time–could perform a similar function. But Kinect has gotten a lot of pushback precisely because it’s a camera that lives in your home and can watch or hear moments you’d rather keep private. Maybe we will eventually give into that level of surveillance in the name of convenience–Amazon seems to think so. But until then, Argo offers a happy medium. It’s a super smart camera, sure, but it’s designed to be deployed only in specific circumstances under our jurisdiction. Argo is a tool for us, not a tool for surveillance.

Argo is only a concept, but a Ford spokesperson tells us that the insights gleaned from the project could impact the company’s future products and investments.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.