This Robotic Furniture Opens Up the Possibilities of Small-Space Living

One day you’ll be able to hack your square footage with this transforming (and kind of magical) piece of furniture.

There’s something weird about this Chinatown apartment, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s beautiful—sleek and modern and open-concept, with a handsome entertainment unit against the wall of the bright and airy living room—but it feels like something’s missing.

And then I realize: there’s no bedroom.

That’s because it’s stowed away, cleverly folded up into that eye-catching entertainment unit, which, it turns out, is digitally controlled. With the press of a button (or a swipe on your app, or a voice command to your Amazon Alexa), it rolls out from the wall on motorized rails and becomes a walk-in closet; another button prompts a queen-sized bed to slide out. It’s so high-tech, it feels like magic.

Press a button, and the unit slides out from the wall to reveal a closet space behind it.

This is Ori, a robotic furniture system originally created at MIT’s Media Lab and piloted in Boston in both long-term rental suits and Airbnbs. “This is furniture with superpowers,” says Hasier Larrea, the company’s CEO. Four-hundred-plus square feet go a long way, it turns out, when you aren’t sacrificing space for a mattress—an intriguing possibility for the increasing number of urbanites moving into micro-units as city populations rise.

“We looked into what people were complaining about with studio apartments: no division of space, no proper living area, no storage,” says Larrea. The resulting Ori robotics system addresses all of those, creating bedrooms and walk-in closets with the push of a button. (And with a design pedigree—Yves Béhar collaborated with Ori on the look of the units.)  

A desktop manually pulls out of this particular design, too.

The only system in Vancouver lives in a research and development suite in Bosa’s BlueSky Chinatown building. Soon, select renters will get to experience life with robotic furniture first hand and Ori and Bosa will use the data the collect to tweak the technology and find the most appropriate projects to apply Ori at a larger scale.

“We’ve spent so much of history figuring out how to adapt to spaces,” Larrea says. “Urban space is too invaluable to be static and unresponsive.”

Unlike a Murphy bed or pullout sofa, you don’t even have to make the bed or move the pillows—the whole mess just slides away. 

Watch robot furniture in action here: