Transforming studio living: MIT startup brings robotic furniture to Vancouver

Imagine a bedroom that, with a touch of a button, morphs into a living room. Push another button and it becomes a kitchen, a gym or an office.

Ori Systems partners with local development company to test robotic technology in Chinatown studio

With the push of a button, the space transforms: a bed appears, the room divides and storage appears. (Matt Humphrey/CBC)

Imagine a bedroom that, with a touch of a button, morphs into a living room. Push another button and it becomes a kitchen, a gym or an office.

It may sound like science fiction but Ori Systems, a startup out of MIT, is bringing the robotic furniture technology to Vancouver and has partnered with a local development company.

Martin Rahn, vice president of development and innovation at Bosa Properties, said he thinks technology could be the answer to the lack of living space that plagues many Vancouverites.   

"Density is coming, we all know it and we are all living with it," said Rahn. "How can you live in a bachelor apartment with another person and not feel frustrated?"

Hasier Larrea, CEO of Ori Systems, started developing the technology as a graduate student at MIT. (Matt Humphrey/CBC)

Bosa Properties is currently piloting the project in a studio in Vancouver's Chinatown, part of Ori's showcasing of the furniture across ten North American cities. Vancouver is the only Canadian city testing out the technology so far.

Maximizing a small space

Ori CEO Hasier Larrea said he chose Vancouver as one of the places to showcase his company's ideas because of the high cost and demand for housing in the city.

"The higher the price per square foot, the more need there is for these solutions," Larrea said.

The furniture can moves with the touch of a button on the app, by voice activation or manually. (Ori Systems)

A moveable structure in the centre of the room shifts to divide or expand the space in the room, the bed slides away out of sight and a walk-in closet pulls out to make a walk-in closet. The furniture moves with the press of a button on an app or by voice activation.

"We're just going to press the bed icon and automatically the system is going to move and it's going to actually pull out a queen sized bed," Larrea said.

As he spoke, the structure moved with a soft hum and a bed appeared.

"This space, from being a big living room, now it has become a bedroom on one side and a smaller living room on the other side," he said.  

The robotic furniture, estimated to cost about $10,000, isn't for sale in Vancouver yet. If the pilot project is successful, Bosa Properties plans to make it available in rental condos and studios.

To hear On The Coast's interview with Martin Rahn and Hasier Larrea, click on the audio link below:

With files from Matt Humphrey