Have you ever fantasized about the future? What do you envision? Is it flying cars or vacation destinations in space? Cupcakes without calories or dustless Cheetos? Whatever it is, it’s nothing like we’re used to, that’s for sure. While it might seem like the earth (and humanity as we know it), is gallivanting, seemingly unaware, toward certain disaster and possible extinction, there are small clues, and glimmers of hope here and there, subtly pointing out that all is not lost. One could argue that MIT is the source of 90% of those clues, but hey, we can’t all be geniuses ensuring a better tomorrow. One of their latest inventions that screams “FUTURE” and assures that if we are to keep going, it’s going to at least be cool, is a Robotic Apartment-in-a-Box.
Now, while the description pretty much sells itself, the nitty gritty of what a “Robotic Apartment-in-a-Box” really means will have you on the edge of your seat. If you haven’t kept up to date with recent housing costs, the number of folks flocking to cities, inflation in general, or the economically convenient tried of tiny living spaces, let me catch you up, as quick as I can: small places are “in,” whether you want them or not. And while the spaces people are making manageable for everyday living might be, in a lot of instances, shrinking, human needs are only growing. In a lot of cases, at the bare minimum, a home needs to include a place to sleep, a place to cook/eat, and a place to work. Easy enough if you’re able to pay a mortgage on a space that’s got at least 1200 square feet and room to spare – but if you’re squeezing life into 200 square feet, finding room to do your actual living can get tight pretty quickly.
The concept that aims to tackle this issue, one square foot at a time, is a collaboration between Fuseproject’s Yves Béhar and MIT’s Media Lab, called Ori Systems. Although the general idea has been in the works since roughly 2014, it’s just recently became available for pre-order in a handful of cities including New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and more. The cost, as of now, starts at $10,000.
The general premise of this invention is having an efficient space that can adapt to your needs at a moment’s notice. It’s more or less a transformer in apartment form. As explained on How Stuff Works, “You can give it instructions through a control interface on the side of the unit, through a smartphone app, or by talking to one of Amazon’s Alexa-enabled intelligent agent devices.”
If Alexa isn’t already a close friend, simply imagine being able to shape-shift your apartment: from a bedroom one minute, to office space, and then into a cozy living room. When you’ve got 200 square feet to work with the ability to change the feel and function of a space is a pretty desirable advantage. As boldly stated on the Ori Systems website, “You will always be a finger touch, tap or voice command away from having your space adapt to you,” or in the words of their slogan, imagine “One room. A hundred ways.”
Speaking to the history and evolution of the project, a Fast Co Design article explains how an early version of the project, dubbed “CityHome” was created due to the want to create a “compact design solution for the growing number of urban micro-apartments.” As the solution evolved, and prototypes were tested via forums such as Airbnb, the product (now Ori Systems) slowly began to focus less on robotics and more simply on the design that people want (and need) in their home living spaces. On the technicalities of how the units work, FastCo goes into detail:
“It includes a bed, a closet, drawers, a workstation, and storage. Pushing a button will slowly eject the bed, for instance, or move the unit back to make more room for a living area.”
So, if you’ve found yourself squeezed into an apartment where there seems to be no home for normalcy (or actual living), maybe you can stop scratching your head and start scrounging pennies. Although the company is only planning to initially take orders from commercial real estate developers, the public should be privy in only a matter of time. Cramped spaces, maybe there’s hope for you yet.