MIT’s Robotic Micro-Apartment Transforms From A Single Room Into Many

Mechanization and gestures add new livability to a cramped space.

Ever wish you could be getting more out of the space that you have without resorting to a murphy bed? Kent Larson, the director of MIT Media Lab‘s “Changing Places” group, Oier Ariño and Hasier Larrea have led a group of architecture students in a design project that has resulted in an 200-square-foot transformable home that includes a bedroom that “transforms to a home gym,” and a living room that can become “a dinner party space for 14 people, a suite for four guests, two separate office spaces plus a meeting space, or an a open loft space for a large party.” The kitchen can also be used in a closed or open configuration, making it either a living space or one that’s used solely for food preparation.

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But people in cramped city apartments make do with their limited space all the time. What makes this group’s plan any different? The answer is its powerful mechanical underpinnings in the form of the RoboWall. The RoboWall is a closet-sized mechanical box that can be installed in an apartment without any need for additional infrastructure or wiring. With a set of simple hand gestures, such as holding your hand flat at the trundle bed and making a ‘pulling’ motion to bring it outward, it can function as a bed, work space, dining room table (with seating for six), a cooking range, closet, and multipurpose storage space. The entire unit can also be shifted several feet to change the dimensions of the space around it. No need to worry about getting hit in the behind with a fold-up ironing board like in the old cartoons; the automation makes RoboWall safer than anything that has preceded it.

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The design, if it hit the market and became affordable in itself, could have wide-reaching implications for a young generation that has had to learn to make do with practically nothing in terms of affordable housing — and may soon be able to make do with less. “This would work well in the 30 to 40 Innovation Cities where young people are priced out of the market,” lead researcher Kent Larson explains. “At $1,000 per square foot in Boston, the extra cost of technology is trivial compared to space saved for a furnished apartment.” Larson has assured many that his team’s idea isn’t just a pipe dream, he hopes to bring it to market soon, through either a startup or a commercial sponsor.

See the RoboWall in action below:

Changing Places Research Group

[h/t] FastCo Design

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