Ori’s Robotic Furniture Hints at Future of Smart Homes, Urban Design

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$1 million, he says, and the goal is to install more than 500 Ori systems across the U.S. and Canada next year.

At $10,000 a pop, Ori’s first product will likely only be found in high-end apartments. If the company is going to be part of the solution to creating more affordable urban housing, it will have to roll out less expensive products. Larrea concedes this point, and says the company intends to offer a mix of both cheaper and more expensive options, to cater to a variety of customers.

“These technologies will keep evolving,” he says. With Ori’s current product, “the biggest cost is not the robotics. It’s the furniture. Furniture can be made super cheap or super expensive.”

Ori has taken an interesting approach to gathering feedback about its product. It’s renting out the Boston apartment on Airbnb, Larrea says. Every weekend, people from around the world stay there and later share their experiences with the Ori system.

One lesson was that most people wanted the product to be “approachable” and to look like furniture they would want in their home, Larrea says. “If it’s something that’s your bed, where you sleep, [or] where you work, it cannot look like a robot,” he says.

So, Ori enlisted renowned designer Yves Béhar to help make the system feel more “home-y” and give it more “personality,” Larrea says.

Ori’s approach could signal new ways for people to shape their homes to reflect their personalities. Larrea predicts homes will operate almost like smartphones, where each home has roughly the same components, but the myriad smart systems—like apps on today’s phones—will enable people to tailor things to their tastes and have completely different experiences, he says.

“The same customization of the smartphone world, I think you’re going to see in the physical world,” Larrea says. “You’re going to see how physical things get smarter and smarter, but you’re always going to be able to dial up [and] dial down what kind of functionality you want.”

[The top photo shows a possible configuration of Ori’s first product. The photo is used with permission.]

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