Robotic furniture aims to address housing crisis

Inventors are looking at moving furniture to maximize space

Rendering of two bedroom Ori Expandable Apartment (Ori Expandable Apartments, Getty Images)
Rendering of two bedroom Ori Expandable Apartment (Ori Expandable Apartments, Getty Images)

Furniture makers are welcoming their new robotic masters.

In a modern spin on the Murphy bed, architects, designers and inventors seeking to use technology to maximize use of small spaces have installed so-called robotic furniture in student housing, churches and the homes of celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, the Wall Street Journal reported. Among the inventors are former Apple and Tesla engineers in San Francisco, ex-researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a design and architectural firm in Spain.

The makers of systems that include beds that rise into the ceiling to reveal couches, as well as moving walls and cameras enabled with artificial intelligence to track storage, are hoping to make the technology more ubiquitous – and cheaper than the $40,000 it can cost to install one in a room.

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More affordable robotic systems can cost as little as $5,000 apiece, however, and some have been installed in apartments that rent for $1,000 a month.

Supporters say the technology could help ease the rising housing crisis, not unlike how the Murphy bed helped in the early 1900s. William Murphy, who was frustrated from living in cramped quarters in San Francisco, invented the upward-folding bed to allow his small apartment’s main living space to serve as a bedroom as well as a living room.

These days, IKEA is working with Ori Expandable Apartments on what the companies call a “complex project.” Ori has four floor plans, ranging from studios to two-bedrooms, that are already on the market.
— Victoria Pruitt