Yves Béhar is the face of smart tech design. His work on various projects -- most notablyand the -- has earned him and his Fuseproject studio awards and name recognition in an industry where yesterday's innovations are today's old news. Fuseproject's latest collaboration with an MIT Media Lab "spin-off" called Ori aims to fundamentally change the landscape of smart living -- literally.
The product, also called Ori, is a modular system of robotic furniture that effectively takes a single room, such as a studio apartment, and coordinates it to transform into a bedroom, living room, walk-in closet, or office.
Picture a large bureau that sits on one side of your room. A bed extends from the bottom, and closet space for clothes is at chest-level. When you toggle the control panel, though, the bed slides underneath, the whole bureau shifts across the room, and revealed on the other side is an entertainment center and couch. Similar transformations can reveal a desk or floor-to-ceiling closets.
The idea, inspired by Japanese origami, is elegant. Through coordinating furniture, a 300-square foot studio can be made to feel like a full-size apartment. Suddenly, rooms aren't bound by architecture; spaces are defined by organization.
Here's the catch: Ori isn't something you pick up at Target. Instead, Ori the company is working with real estate developers in Boston, Washington DC and Seattle to bring its system to apartments.
As a millennial cooped up in my first single-bedroom apartment, I love the idea of using space creatively to improve quality of life for people living in tight urban environments. But one thing worries me. Ori could easily contribute to problematic patterns of gentrification in these cities, raising the cost of living for even small apartments, and pushing out current residents.
Developers at Ori responded that, "As square footage is by far the biggest cost - much more than technology -- then you could get the functionality of a much bigger apartment for a fraction of the cost." Either way, Ori is a promising technology. I hope it's made as accessible as possible.