April 23, 2012 -- I've been told by producer and mother of a one-year-old that a great stroller is as important to a mom as a great car is to a commuter. So it's a bit odd: While the design of strollers has improved over the years, there really hasn't been much technology added to these baby-mobiles.
That is, until the 4moms Origami.
This $849.99 stroller, which, it so happens, was designed by four moms, has a ton of tech packed inside. Its main feature -- its ability to open and close automatically -- literally turned heads as I tested it. It's called power-folding: when you twist the knob on the handle bar the stroller will unfurl itself. That's right, you don't have to mess with opening and closing.
On top of that it has some other very neat features, including the ability to charge your phone. But does all the tech detract from the most important feature of a stroller -- keeping your child safe and comfortable? With the help of my producer Cara Lemieux and her adorable daughter and little niece I was able to find out.
Before we get into whether it's a good stroller, let's talk about the tech features. The power-folding is helpful in preventing the stroller struggle parents and caregivers are all too familiar with. And it's easy to work. Twist the knob on the handlebar, press the button, and up pops the stroller. The same process will collapse it.
And don't worry; there is a sensor in the seat that prevents it from closing with a child in it. In fact, the LCD screen on the handlebar has a little on-screen indicator showing you that the baby is still in the stroller.
Yes, there is a display on the back of the stroller. The dashboard not only tells you your child is still in the stroller, but it tells you the outside temperature, how fast you are going, how far you have travelled, and the remaining battery life. The backlit display is easy to read in the dark or in the sun.
Speaking of the dark, the Origami has daytime running lights in front, as well as a pathway light underneath the seat for nighttime travels. You can turn the light on and off using that knob on the handlebar.
But there's even more in the tech arena: You can purchase an add-on that costs $39.99 and lets you charge your cell phone.
You may wonder how the stroller gets all its power. Do I have to remember to charge yet another thing in my life? Nope, and that's the genius of this stroller. The power source is the stroller itself.
Generators in the rear wheels charge the stroller as you walk. A power adapter comes in the box to plug into your wall, but 4moms says it shouldn't be necessary because pushing it a few hundred feet will give it enough juice for one open-and-close cycle.
Just because there is a ton of tech doesn't mean it is lacking in what matters most in a stroller. There are easily adjustable straps, which allow you to get a child in and out with ease, as well as the ability to recline the seat by adjusting a strap behind the seat.
My producer and her daughter did wish it reclined a bit further, but it goes back enough to make a napping child more comfortable and prevent stiff necks.
We took the stroller for a stroll. You can push it easily with two hands, but it isn't easily pushed with one hand. Though the wheels look a bit plasticky, the ride was very smooth. Additionally, the four-wheel suspension makes going over curbs and bumps quite easy, with little disruption to your child. It also seems to sway a bit from side to side, but the makers say this is part of the design.
The Origami is designed for children ages six months to fours years and up to 40 pounds, and you can purchase a car seat adapter for $59.99 that is compatible with a variety of Graco SnugRide car seats. The seat covers are machine washable and come in a variety of bright colors.
It has all sounded perfect, but there is one major downside, and that is the weight. At 32 pounds, this stroller can give your arms a workout. It is a bit much to lug up and down a set of stairs and in and out of the car. Strollers like the City Mini only weigh 18 pounds.
But you may be willing to look the other way on the weight issue when you don't have to sweat to unfold the stroller, run home to charge your phone, and guess at how many miles you've walked. Plus, bragging about having the highest-tech car -- er, stroller -- on the road never gets old.