Robotics-engineer-turned-entrepreneur Hasier Larrea wants to give furniture superpowers. In response to rising rents and populations in global cities, he has created a tool to make small spaces work harder with robotics.
As head of Architectural Robotics research at the MIT Media Lab, Larrea spent 4 years developing strategies for “living large in a small space”: his team created an “army of furniture with superpowers” and built a 200 square-foot CityHome, living laboratory focused on using mechatronics (electronics plus mechanical engineering).
Now, his company Ori– Japanese for “to fold”- has created robotic furniture that transforms into a bedroom, living room or an office with the push of a button. “The idea here is architecture and robotics: so how you bring mechanics, electronics, software to make spaces effortlessly transformable. And the word ‘effortless’ is very important because I’ve seen thousands of beautiful tiny apartments that are just too much work to transform. So how we can make transformation not be a ritual, how we can make transformation be magical and that’s where the power of robotics comes into play.”
Ori System’s first offering (widely available in early 2017) is a morphing wall that divides any studio into separate spaces by pushing a button for one of the presets: living room, bedroom and office (the lighting is also preset to change for the individual rooms). The unit, designed by Yves Béhar, resembles a large wall of shelves with a closet, drawers, pop-out desk and a trundle-style bed which slides out automatically when the bedroom setting is pushed.
What makes the system function is fairly simple: a mechanical actuator to slide the bed and the wall, embedded sensors for safety (the furniture stops morphing if motion is detected, similar to a garage-door opener) and the computer portion leaves the system open to be upgraded with new apps (with future versions of the software, the unit could be controlled by voice or gestures). The furniture can be controlled by smartphone so users can set up their space before arriving home.
Ori is currently rolling out the product in three cities (Boston, Seattle and Washington, D.C.), working directly with commercial and residential real estate developers (we filmed with him in Skanska’s Watermark Seaport building in Boston).
Larrea says that future iterations of the product will take advantage of vertical space by moving a bed or table to the ceiling when not in use. “It’s interesting because the moment you make it as tiny as 200 square feet, that’s when moving sideways doesn’t make as much sense, then you need to go up.”
Ori is launching with two options- systems for a full, or queen, size bed- and customizable storage and cabinetry colors, but in the future Larrea hopes that his creation will scale to serve even the DIY community. “We don’t want to create a closed system, a bunch of guys here in Boston from MIT are not going to design all the spaces of the world. But what if we can provide the tools so that the people who really understand spaces, spaces that are different in Shanghai, in Seoul, in New York. What if those people could have access to tools. And that’s what we’ve been seeing in software, in the maker movement, what if we could bring that to architecture and design.”