Apartment in a box’ uses cutting-edge robotics to save space with style

By Jamie Thomson

As far as space-saving solutions go, the pull-down wall bed always seemed like winner – until you had to actually gothrough the hassle of pulling the thing down and making up the bed at the end of every day. And then there were the issues of safety – the wall bed, with good reason, has been at the centre of slapstick routines for nearly as long as the beds themselves.

But rather than putting a bed in a cupboard, what about putting a cupboard around a bed? In fact, why not use cutting-edge robotics to create a free-standing unit with the footprint of a double mattress that can function as a bed, a wardrobe for clothes, a workspace, a living room table and a self-propelling movable room divider? And, while we’re at it, can it automatically morph between all these functions with the touch of a button because, y’know, we’re kind of tired?

This is the thinking behind Ori, a robotic “apartment in a box”, the brainchild of former MIT student Hasier Larrea, who first came up with the idea in 2014.

“We started to think about what you could do with technology to make 200 square feet feel luxurious,” says Larrea, Ori’s CEO. “Space should adapt to activities instead of the other way around. We saw robotics in other industries and saw that real estate was so far behind. It’s still building things like the Romans.”

Classic wall bed comedy

The Ori started out much like the humble wall bed, but with an automated system using hand gestures to pull down or store the sleeping space (something that sounds like a recipe for disaster to us at Title). Three years of refinement and road-testing (using Airbnb clients), and a much-needed makeover by San Francisco design experts fuseproject, and the fully-functioning “apartment in a box” was born. You can see it in action in the video on the right.

“One of the things we learned initially when we were testing, was that the unit looked like a futuristic robot,” Larrea says. “When bringing new functionality to a home, it can’t look robotic. That’s why we partnered with fuseproject – they’re great at creating things that people love.”

They also ditched plans for Ori to be controlled by a smartphone app in favour of a button on the side of the unit. With the recent concerns about the lax security of The Internet of Things – where anything from children’s toys to cars have had their operating systems compromised by hackers – this can only be a good thing.

Given a scenario where cyberbrats hack the Ori and trap you in your bed while you’re sleeping, or instruct it to “go rogue”, freely trundling around your unit over expensive laptops and dozing pets while you’re out at work, the occasional pitfall of the wall bed seems pretty benign in comparison. So the button will do just fine, thank you.

The Ori will be available to buy from early 2017. For more details, visit orisystems.com

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