How the 4moms Origami Stroller Works

The 4moms Origami stroller is sort of like a luxury car for someone who can't drive yet.
The 4moms Origami stroller is sort of like a luxury car for someone who can't drive yet.
Courtesy of 4moms

Like the song says, I believe the children are our future. And while we know we should teach them well and let them lead the way, if you have $849.99 to spare, you can at least treat your little bundle of joy well by getting him or her the stroller of the future.

The 4moms Origami stroller is a luxury car for people who will need to make it through a few more presidential administrations before they can get behind the wheel. Though the Origami stroller follows the same basic idea as other strollers -- put the kid in it, push where you need to go -- it has features, like daytime running lamps, an LCD dashboard and a cell phone charger, that makes the stroller your kid is currently riding in look medieval.

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Maybe it's because of all the diapers they change, but most parents are pretty good at smelling BS. And a stroller that does everything the Origami stroller can do is sure to have some drawbacks. Daytime running lamps and cell phone chargers need batteries, and those batteries add weight, right? And all those accessories are bound to get in the way when it's time to fold the stroller and go.

The thing is, the 4moms Origami stroller only weighs 1.5 pounds (0.7 kilograms) more than a Stokke Xplory stroller, which has a similar modern design -- and a bigger price tag than the Origami [source: Stokke].

When it comes to folding, however, the Origami makes the Xplory look like it should be Xtinct. The Origami is a power folding stroller. Get the power folding feature started and you'll be as wide-eyed as an infant watching TV for the first time. Like the little drooler, your only thought will be, "How'd they do THAT?"

Where Strollers Come From

The Origami stroller is made by Thorley Industries, a Pittsburgh-based technology firm.
The Origami stroller is made by Thorley Industries, a Pittsburgh-based technology firm.
Courtesy of 4moms

Where babies come from can seem like a bit of a mystery to the uninitiated. Where the 4moms Origami stroller comes from is a lot easier to understand. It comes from Pittsburgh.

Okay, maybe it's not quite that simple.

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The Origami stroller is made by Thorley Industries, a Pittsburgh-based technology firm run by Rob Daley and Henry Thorne. It's sold under the 4moms brand, along with other high-tech baby products like the mamaRoo, a device that uses motion to soothe babies, and the Cleanwater Collection, a bathtub for babies and toddlers that helps parents maintain a safe water temperature. The company is also getting ready to release the Breeze, a portable crib and playpen.

At Thorley Industries, Daley runs the business side while Thorne, an engineer who used to build robots for General Motors, heads up the designs. The ideas for their products come from an advisory panel of moms and their own observations. According to The Wall Street Journal, the idea for the Origami came after Daley saw that a stroller demonstrator at a trade show needed to get on one knee to fold it up. As any parent can tell you, folding a stroller while also wrangling a kid and kid gear is tough -- and thus the idea for the Origami was planted.

4moms's high-end baby gear has generated a lot of interest. Celebrities like Elton John, Hillary Duff and Victoria Beckham use the mamaRoo, the Origami has been featured on "Ellen" and "The Today Show," and 4moms' sales revenue went from $3.2 million in 2010 to $7.4 million in 2011 [source: Pittsburgh Business Times]. Newell Rubbermaid, the parent company to widely-known baby product-maker Graco, bought a 15 percent stake in the company [source: The Wall Street Journal].

Poppin' Wheelies

The Origami is a power folding stroller -- just twist a knob and push a button near the handle bars to set it in motion.
The Origami is a power folding stroller -- just twist a knob and push a button near the handle bars to set it in motion.
Courtesy of 4moms

As innovative as the other 4moms products are, the Origami gets the most attention -- as any power-folding robotic stroller would. Though the power-folding mechanism is what makes the Origami standout at playgroup, it's the wheels that really drive this thing.

The two rear wheels in the Origami stroller house generators. As the stroller is pushed, the turning of the wheels powers the generators and they make electricity, which is stored in the Origami's battery. Because power is constantly being made, the Origami doesn't need a bulky battery pack. Just by pushing the stroller, parents make the power necessary for the automated folding mechanism and the other high-tech goodies on the Origami.

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To fold the Origami, all you have to do is twist a knob and push a button near the handle bars. Requiring the knob twist means that the fold button won't accidentally be pushed while the stroller is in use. There are also sensors in the Origami's seating area. If any weight is detected, the stroller won't fold, which is a key safety feature since no one wants a creased kid.

The folding motion itself is somewhat similar to what you might see in a conventional stroller. The front wheels flip back and the seat lies back onto the rear wheels, while the seat frame and central support pillar retract. When it's time to go, the process happens in reverse: The tubes in the seat frame and central support pillar extend, the seat sits up and the front wheels move out.

Spoiling Kids and Parents

The Origami's rear wheels contain generators that work to power some high-tech treats for moms and dads -- like this LCD dashboard display.
The Origami's rear wheels contain generators that work to power some high-tech treats for moms and dads -- like this LCD dashboard display.
Courtesy of 4moms

Sure, spending $850 on a stroller (or more if you want the car seat adapter that makes it possible for young infants to ride in the Origami) may seem like spoiling your kids, but as with a lot of baby products, the Origami really spoils the parents. In addition to the power folding mechanism, the Origami's rear wheels power some high-tech treats for moms and dads. The only thing that's missing is a wine fountain to help mom and dad unwind after bedtime (four cup holders are included, however).

At the front of the Origami are daytime running lamps, which help make the stroller more visible (though with its Cylon-like design and bright colors, it's hard to imagine anyone missing it) and pathway lights, which help keep the Origami on the straight and narrow after dark. Up on the push bar is an LCD dashboard, which keeps track of the stroller's speed, distance traveled and a thermometer. An optional accessory lets the Origami charge a cell phone while you walk.

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So, what does the kid in the Origami get? A free ride. The seat is a typical stroller seat with a five-point harness and a 40-degree recline. There's also a sunshade. Actually, the kid features on an Origami stroller are pretty typical. But then again, it's the parents that are paying for this thing, so it makes more sense to give them the most toys. The Origami does have a four-wheel suspension, making sure that Junior won't get jostled too much if mom or dad hit a rough patch while staring at the Origami's LCD instead of where they're going.

Does the 4moms Origami stroller play nice?

The Origami has an adapter that lets parents use an infant car seat -- but it only works with Graco Snugride infant seats.
The Origami has an adapter that lets parents use an infant car seat -- but it only works with Graco Snugride infant seats.
Courtesy of 4moms

The 4moms Origami stroller has a robotic pedigree, celebrity backing and a price tag that would seem to indicate it's the greatest baby product since diapers. But it also has its drawbacks.

Several reviewers comment that though the Origami is easy to fold, it's also heavy. At 29 pounds (13.2 kilograms), the Origami weighs much more than your average toddler, and could be more than parents wrangling a kid and a diaper bag could handle. To help, the Origami has small luggage wheels on its underbelly. When it's folded, you can pull it behind you like a suitcase. Still, some reviewers say getting it up and down stairs or in and out of the car -- the very thing the power fold is supposed to make easier -- could be a chore thanks to the Origami's extra chub.

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The reviewer at Tech Crunch reported that the seat was a bit small for kids age 3 and up, while the reviewer at The Wall Street Journal only complained about the origami's weight. The Origami does have an adapter that lets parents use an infant car seat (since very small babies won't be able to sit in the Origami's forward-facing seat), but it only works with Graco Snugride infant seats. That makes sense, since Graco is part owner of 4moms, but if you prefer a different infant car seat, you'll have to wait for your kid to grow to use the Origami.

We recommend you pass the time by watching the Origami fold up...and down...and up...and down. Come to think of it, your baby might enjoy watching, too.

Author's Note

This is one of those assignments that's all about timing. Nine weeks before being assigned this article, I gave birth to my daughter. Like any new mom, I researched the heck out of baby products (I may have been more obsessive than other moms, but writing for HowStuffWorks.com will do that to you), but managed to miss the Origami, mainly because I can't swing a nearly $850 stroller. The Origami is part of a trend of integrating more tech into baby and children's products. Wooden blocks and a wind-up mobile just won't cut it anymore. Then again, I'm not one to talk: My daughter has her own iPhone (the causality of me trading up to a newer model) and goes to sleep every night with it by her side, running a white noise app.

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Sources

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  • Carnegie Mellon University. "Origami Stroller." (May 15, 2012) http://www.cmu.edu/homepage/society/2012/winter/origami-stroller.shtml
  • KDKA, Pittsburgh. "Local Company's Baby Products Innovative and Unique." KDKA, CBS, Pittsburgh, PA. March 3, 2011. (May 15, 2012) http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2011/03/03/local-company%E2%80%99s-baby-products-innovative-unique/
  • Gardner, Ralph. "Cutting Edge, for Baby." The Wall Street Journal. Jan. 18, 2012. (May 15, 2012) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204468004577167003981510524.html
  • Hagerty, James R. "Gadget Gurus for Modern Moms and Dads." The Wall Street Journal. Nov. 12, 2011. (May 15, 2012) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204190704577026021148982082.html?KEYWORDS=Thorley
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