From the Wall Street Journal
I don't believe in UFOs, but I spotted one as I was walking up Park Avenue the other day. As I approached, I discovered it wasn't actually extraterrestrial life but a futuristic-looking baby stroller that appeared to be hovering just above the sidewalk. The effect was caused by lights that illuminated the underside of the carriage, as well as the pavement in front of it and to its sides.
The Origami stroller
Needless to say, I was charmed. It's been a while since I've needed a baby stroller, either for myself or my children, but I wanted to go right out and buy one. I'm something of a student of these devices, with strong feelings about the ideal size, design and accoutrements—as I suspect anyone is who's ever had an infant or toddler, or does currently, and comes to think of the stroller as an appendage, and an occasionally unruly one at that.
But as soon as I saw this thing, I thought, "Why not?" Why hadn't anyone thought of stroller lights before? And, come to think of it, why not dozens of other options? If your Range Rover can have Blenheim leather seats, a 14-speaker sound system and parking sensors, why should your little pride and joy suffer with less?Because it's so long since I purchased a pram, my assumption was that I was late to the game and that running lights are standard these days, that I simply hadn't been paying attention. But when I visited FAO Schwartz, which has a decent stroller department, they had no idea what I was talking about. Had I been seeing things? What had I been doing that night before encountering the UFO stroller and how much had I had to drink?
The stroller collapses with the push of a button.
The saleswoman suggested I contact buybuy Baby, a downtown store that apparently has a large stroller department. I did, and the sales associate who answered the phone told me I wasn't seeing things, but that the stroller in question, called the Origami and manufactured by 4moms (makers of the indispensable Mamaroo baby bouncer), was so new to the market that the store was awaiting its first shipment. But people were already asking for it.
I called 4moms and arranged an interview with Henry Thorne, the da Vinci industrial designer behind the stroller. As it turned out, Giggle, a children's store right in my neighborhood, was already selling them. So great was my anticipation that I rushed right over, even before debriefing Mr. Thorne, to see the chariot in person.
The Origami was as delightful and as fashion-forward as I recalled when I encountered it on Park Avenue. Its most impressive feature—especially if you're a mom (or a dad, for that matter) with a baby, pocketbook, phone, newspaper, coffee, groceries or any of an infinite variety of things parents find themselves weighted down by during the normal course of business—isn't the mood lights, though they're pretty amazing, too. It's the Origami's "power-folding" feature. Simply hit an ergonomic button on the handle and the thing folds like a house of cards. Obviously, you have to remember to remove baby first.
And there are lots of other neat features, my favorite being its LCD dashboard. It's a screen that shows whether your infant is seated in the stroller—so you don't leave without him—your speed, distance (both trip and lifetime), the ambient temperature and how much battery (what powers all these bells and whistles, thanks to a built-in generator) you have left.
The LCD screen.
It's even animated. As you roll down the street, the display's background features the sun and clouds. "At night the clouds change to stars and the sun to the moon," Mr. Thorne, chief technology officer of 4moms, explained when I got him on the phone.
The only drawback I could find was the Origami's weight, 29 lbs. It's fine if your stroller can make an espresso—the Origami can't (yet), but it does have handy cup holders for both parent and child. But my dim recollection is that the single most important factor in selecting a stroller, besides price (particularly when you're rushing for the crosstown bus with your kid under your arm, or chasing it down the Spanish Steps), is weight. That and being able to fold it with one hand.
I brought this sole reservation to the attention of one of the sales associates at Giggle. She wasn't particularly well versed in the specifics of the Origami, it having so recently arrived. But when I raised the challenge of mounting bus or subway stairs with it, she said, "A lot of people in the city don't go on subways and buses. We work on lifestyle."
I took that to mean that some New York moms and dads, at least in that rarefied region of the Upper East Side—the store was at 74th Street and Lexington Avenue—need never bother with heavy lifting. That's what nannies and doormen are for.
Mr. Thorne didn't consider the weight a big deal, either. "It folds so compactly it makes it an easier lift," he explained. By the way, hit the fold button when the stroller's in the collapsed position and it pops right back up like a Vaudeville performer. "It's got luggage wheels that make it easy to pull around like a suitcase."
When I spoke with Rob Daley, CEO of 4moms and the man whose idea it was to build a power-folding stroller after he saw the difficulty parents on the go had folding conventional strollers, he admitted: "It's heavier than we would like it to be." But he added, "In the world of full-sized, full-featured strollers, we're in the middle of the pack."
It's not cheap, either, retailing in the $850 range.
But why quibble? Genius has its price, especially when it comes with landing lights, and did I mention the cellphone charger? Among the other options 4moms is considering is a sound system, and perhaps a heating element to keep baby toasty on even the most frigid days.
Knowing how neurotic and overprotective New York City parents can be, I suggested the Origami incorporate onto the dashboard one of those monitors they have at hospitals that measure heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation and pulse.
Mr. Daly sounded receptive to the idea. "Once you put intelligence into a stroller," he stated cheerfully, "it opens up a whole world of possibilities."