Designers are experimenting with the capability for their designs to power our devices.
In our always-on, always connected society, smartphones, tablets and 2 in 1 laptops feel like extensions of our limbs until they run out of power. That fear of seeing our device’s battery icon go red with nary a plug in sight has prompted designers to start building technology into furniture, creating chairs or tables that function as device charging stations.
Earlier this year, Intel showed how a decorative bowl could be used as a device drop spot in the home or an office desk. Hidden beneath the bowl is magnetic resonance technology that can charge multiple devices simultaneously.
“We wanted to make charging cool,” said Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of Intel’s New Devices Group, in an April interview with CNBC.
“You pop your device in there and it charges while you’re having dinner,” he said.
Over the next few years, Bell expects to see many devices that will have this capability.
It’s this kind of thinking, where technology is invisibly integrated into something, that is inspiring designers integrate new functionality into almost everything.
The idea of resting and recharging was realized at the Salone del Mobile 2014 in Milan, the world’s largest furniture fair. At their Ventura Lambrate space stood the Cloud Table, installed by Dutch design firm Studio Mak. People who stopped at the table could put their devices down and bring them back to life via the wireless charging pads embedded in the untreated poplar wood. Devices also benefitted from the WiFi signal boosters implanted beneath the table.
“Our aim was to design an environment at the Salone in Milan that would accommodate people’s needs for social interaction and information exchange during this week long design fair,” said Studio Mak founder Marieke Kums, in a recent article on Dezeen.
The table became a workspace and meeting space.People came there to network with others, laying their devices on the table, which seamlessly recharged the device’s battery.
“Depending on where you sit down, you find yourself either in a group context or a more individual place, sitting at the table or being surrounded by the table,” Kums explained.
In densely populated cities across the world, space can be hard to come by and furniture arranging can turn into a frustrating game of Tetris.
Fitting together all the necessities in a home without feeling claustrophobic or cluttered is the challenge today’s multi-functional designers are aiming to solve.
Clunky power strips or a lack of power outlets may be things of the past as new electronics get integrated furniture. Look to things like the Herb sofa by Burak Kocak to become the ultimate couch for the modern, Internet connected urbanite.
All wires are hidden within the oak “branches” of the furniture, essentially transforming the Herb sofa into comfortable and functional power strip that can charge any device while you’re relaxing.
This multifunctional piece brings together seating, shelving units, lighting and a power station all in a single design.
While the shelf and side table units are useful, it’s the power socket at the end of the shelves that come in handy. It can streamline a room by eliminating tangled nests of wires on the floor.
Italian company Studio Natural took the concept of power-generating furniture a step further with its Lucio table.
This small side table is embedded with solar panels that transform not only natural light, but also artificial rays into power.
Built with a few USB docks, users can plug in their mobile devices and know that they are receiving free regenerated energy, which is valuable both in terms of reducing cost and increasing the overall eco-friendliness of the piece.
As well, since Lucio gains 100% of its energy from light sources, there are no plugs necessary which allows the freestanding charging station to be versatile.
“We live in houses constantly dominated by the light, during the day by sunlight and at night by artificial light,” writes the brand in a submission to modern and contemporary design website Moco Loco.
“With Lucio we designed a furniture element that stores energy from inside light to charge the tools that we use daily like smartphones and tablets. Lucio is an energy point [for a] living space.”
Furniture might contain hidden power sources but it may also have the technology to generate energy, as we have seen with the iPad charging iRock rocking chair.
With its potential to harness both natural energy or create its own, charging station furniture could bring a new convenient twist to how we interact with gadgets at home, work, restaurant or bar.
It will be interesting to see how designers turn to inconspicuous and even sophisticated technologies to create stylish, comfortable and multi-functional furniture as electronics increasingly become more essential to people’s live.
Blending what we desire with what we need is a recipe for pushing boundaries and breaking new ground. In this series of articles published in partnership with iQ by Intel, we look at products, service and technologies that are always evolving to offer versatile applications much like the Intel based 2 in1s, a line of new multifunctional devices that are a tablet when you want it and a laptop when you need it.