MIT's Media Lab produces robotic modular furniture for living in tight spaces


MIT's Media Lab produces robotic modular furniture for living in tight spaces

Control the placement of furniture from an app. (Courtesy Ori)

Hailing from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, Ori is a range of adaptable homeware and furniture designed to maximize the potential of small spaces. With its name coming from the Japanese word “origami,” the furniture system combines robotics, architecture, and design to let interiors double-up as bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, and offices.

Teaming up with Swiss product designer Yves Béhar, founder and CEO of Ori and research scientist at MIT Hasier Larrea has his eyes set on fundamentally altering the “experience and economics of the urban built environment.” Speaking in a press release, Larrea added that “Ori’s systems make possible the effortless and magical transformation of interior spaces, providing the totally new experience of having our interior space intelligently conform to our activities, rather than our activities being forced to conform to our interior space.”

The firm argues that contemporary urban dwellings have become overtly static and unresponsive, an inefficiency that is ill-affordable in today’s housing climate. A movable mainframe, containing a variety of concealable furniture and storage, is the core concept in Ori’s modular and mechatronic furniture. Using the wall mounted control panel, the module can move across the floor and deploy different pieces of furniture. This can all be done remotely through the Ori app as well (perfect for if you want your space to be ready for an impromptu party.)

With words such as “mechatronic,” “modular,” and “efficiency” being banded around, it would be easy to assume that such a system has aesthetics as an afterthought. That, however, is where Yves Béhar comes in. While being part of the functional design process, Ori’s quality of finish makes it an appealing addition to dwellings that are hard-pressed on floor space. In a design statement, Béhar says:

Cities such as London, Seattle, San Francisco and almost everywhere else are seeing an influx of young professionals, yet those urban centers are more expensive and more condensed. People are seeking smaller living spaces as an economic opportunity, and while it meshes well with notions of sustainability, the question Ori is tackling is: how do we accommodate a living room, bedroom, closet and office space in a small 200-300 square feet apartment?

While these micro living spaces enable developers to provide more housing options and allow renters and buyers affordability and a smaller carbon footprint, they clearly lack the need for life’s different accommodations that larger apartments provide. While some may view these small spaces as a necessity, a group of MIT engineers saw this as an opportunity – how do we maximize our use of these spaces, providing the experience of luxury living without the luxury of size? Better yet, what if your living space could physically transform to create any environment you need? We teamed up with Ori to design a system of robotic furniture: transformable units that can triple the usage of a given space.

While not on the market just yet, inquiries can be made via Ori’s website here.