by Jeff Engel, Xconomy

The “smart” device movement has brought us gadgets like Internet-connected thermostats, light bulbs, and speakers. Now, a startup out of MIT called Ori wants to add furniture and walls to the so-called Internet of Things.

“When we think of the home of the future or office of the future, the IoT has been limited to the peripherals,” says Ori co-founder and CEO Hasier Larrea. “But no one is thinking about, ‘What if we bring that intelligence to the space itself?’”

That’s what Boston-based Ori is trying to do with its “architectural robotics” systems, Larrea says. I recently saw one of the pilot versions of its first product in action (see video below). The modular furniture is powered by a combination of software, electronics, sensors, wheels, and motors. It’s sort of like a Transformer for your home—it can morph between an entertainment center, a bedroom, a closet, and a small office.

The product is meant for cramped studio apartments, where every square foot is precious. When I walk into the company’s demo apartment at Boston’s Watermark Seaport complex, the Ori system is pressed against a wall, with a TV, a clock, plants, and other knickknacks resting on its shelves facing the couch and living room area. When Larrea presses a button on the side of the system, the whole thing slowly moves away from the wall, and Larrea pulls apart two sliding doors on its back side to reveal a closet with hanging clothes and blankets stored on shelves. A bed slides out from the bottom of the cabinet. There’s also a rectangular tabletop that can pull out and serve as a desk.

The various configurations are controlled by the touchpad on the side of the system, or with voice commands via Amazon Alexa or Google Home devices.

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