By Jacob Bourne
What started as a graduate school project at MIT’s Media Lab has evolved into fledgling company, Ori Systems, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Co-founded by engineer Hasier Larrea and Fuseproject designer, Yves Béhar, the goal of the company is to develop mass-market robotic furniture that maximizes the usability of small living spaces typically found in densely populated cities.
“Right now the mindset in real estate and architecture is that square footage is the magic number — more square footage is always seen as better — but with this technology you can make 300 square feet function like 900 square feet,” said Larrea.
With this technology you can make 300 square feet function like 900 square feet
With accelerating urbanization in many parts of the world, Larrea hopes to make small living spaces more livable with intelligent technology. Ori Systems is currently testing a robotic furniture wall prototype in Boston and will be expanding the pilot project to San Francisco, Seattle, New York and Washington, DC in spring of 2017.
The key aspect of the technology is that it makes single-function rooms a thing of the past, which is especially useful for studio apartment dwellers. The robotic wall units are designed for easy installation into a standard room by simply screwing a base track into a wall, plugging a motor into a conventional electrical outlet and assembling the furniture components over a chassis. Once complete, the units are equipped with a control pod with preset buttons that can reconfigure a space with the touch of a finger. The furniture wall is customizable and can seamlessly convert a single room into a bedroom, study, dining room, or entertainment area. It’s also equipped with many storage compartments. The presets are integrated into lighting systems for the room and can be controlled with a smartphone app.
The robotic furniture model was developed to suit the needs of small-space dwellers as well as developers looking to maximize the value of units. The current tests in Boston involve people living with and using the systems and providing feedback. Larrea hopes that his company’s product will allow people to get as much as they desire out of micro housing units instead of having to conform to downsized space living.
“The vision is to make a space be more,” he explained. “So that could be smaller spaces, bigger spaces, it could be offices, it could be hotel rooms, restaurants, hospitals, so we are actually developing using the same technologies; we are developing prototypes of drop-down beds from the ceiling, drop-down tables from the ceiling, closets — all these kinds of armies of architectural technology with superpowers.”
Larrea envisions that within five to ten years, Ori Systems technologies will be as common as garage doors and elevators in single family homes and multi-family buildings. For now, preliminary testing has been done with AirBnB renters and partnerships with developers are being sought for further testing.
“The products should be available by 2017,” Larrea said. “We’ll start in the most attractive U.S. markets with high prices per square foot and then expand from there.”