Transform small apartments with robotic furniture from MIT’s Media Lab

Amanda Maher
Amanda Maher | 5 min. read

Published on November 7, 2017

Anyone who has lived in a small apartment has probably experienced moments of frustration. There’s not enough storage. There’s no room to host friends and family. The furniture from your last apartment doesn’t fit into your new living room. However, these are some of the tradeoffs for living in a more affordable unit or a desirable location.

What if there didn’t need to be so many tradeoffs, though? What if we used new technology to optimize the space in small apartments?

That’s the goal of Ori Systems, a company that’s trying to transform the furniture world, one studio apartment at a time.

Specifically, Ori Systems set out to tackle three problems. Hasier Larrea, one of the company’s co-founders, elaborates:

“The first was space… because it’s difficult to have two simultaneous activities going on in a small space. The second was the damn bed and where to put it… and the third one is storage. There’s never enough storage in a studio apartment,” Larrea says.

So they created Ori Systems, named after the Japanese art form of origami. Ori Systems’ robotic furniture combines several home necessities into a single, movable unit that includes a bed, workstation, drawers, a closet, and storage. Some systems also offer a couch. Ori Systems’ furniture is designed to meet the needs of city dwellers who need to do more in increasingly small apartments.

“One room. A hundred ways,” Ori Systems’ website says. “Guided by the principal that interior space, particularly in high-density urban innovation centers around the world, has become too expensive to be static and unresponsive, Ori’s breakthrough innovation, technology and design create dynamic environments that act and feel as though they are substantially larger.”

Robotic furniture isn’t cheap. Ori Systems’ base model starts at $10,000. At first, this seems steep; but when you realize how functional this makes tiny apartments, it starts to make sense. It costs just about that much to outfit an apartment with custom closets and storage, let alone the cost of a free-standing bed, desk, bureau, etc.

For that $10,000, Ori Systems offers features that most residents didn’t even know were possible. Ori Systems’ robotic furniture furniture is controlled using the on-unit device, a mobile phone app, or by voice command when paired with Amazon Alexa. Transforming the layout and furniture in your small apartment has never been easier.

“Alexa, can you ask Ori to make the bed?” Boom. Done. With the push of a button, the retractable bed can slide in or out.

Want to practice some yoga in your living room? Easy as pie. Ori will clear the space for you.

Having guests over? Ori shuffles around and lays out a table for your wine and cheese array.

The current prototype, developed in collaboration with MIT’s Media Lab, comes in two colors (light and dark), two sizes (Ori Full and Ori Queen), and two configurations (able to be expanded on one side or two). Right now, the robotic furniture is only being offered to apartment developers–and developers are buying in. Ori Systems’ furniture is popping up in luxury apartment buildings across the country.

On the #BuildiumBlog: Learn how robotic furniture enables small units to be endlessly configurable! Click To Tweet

Ori-equipped studio apartments can already be found in Chicago, San Francisco, New York, and Boston. Developers outside of core markets are intrigued by the technology, too. DeBartolo Development’s Steel Works project in Harrison, NJ will feature Ori-equipped apartments, as will Crawford Hoying’s Bridge Park development in Columbus, OH.

Apartment developers tout their ability to offer more space per square foot by utilizing Ori Systems. Maria Masi of Brookfield Property Partners, whose NYC property The Eugene has Ori Systems’ furniture installed in its model unit, says they can rent Ori-equipped apartments for hundreds of dollars more because robotic furniture allows them to position studio apartments more like furnished one-bedroom units.

Indeed, renters seem willing to pay a premium for robotic furniture. Larrea says that apartments equipped with Ori Systems’ robotic furniture  typically rent for about $3,000 per month, depending on the market.

Ori Systems’ robotic furniture is an example of how technology is going to continue transforming the real estate industry. Increasingly, landlords and property managers will be expected to integrate high-tech features into their properties in order to stay relevant in today’s crowded marketplace.

What's robotic furniture—and how can it transform small apartments? Find out on the #BuildiumBlog! Click To Tweet

Check out this video below to learn more about Ori Systems’ robotic furniture: Ori – One Room. A Hundred Ways.

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Amanda Maher

Amanda Maher is a self-proclaimed policy wonk who dabbles in real estate law. She holds a B.S. in Political Science and Sociology from Boston University, as well as a master's in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern.

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