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LEAD Innovation Blog

Read our latest articles on innovation management and innovation in a wide range of industries.

Date: 27-Apr-2018
Posted by: Daniel ZAPFL

How digitization fuses furniture and technology

 

It is clear that furniture production and also the furniture trade are undergoing a profound change as a result of digitalisation. On the other hand, it is less obvious that, on the one hand, more and more technology is being packed into the furniture itself as a result of digitalisation. And on the other hand, completely new pieces of furniture are being created that did not exist before in this form and with these functions. In this blog post we present some interesting approaches that show how digital change enriches the world of furniture.

With the advent of electrical and above all electronic devices, something came into the homes and offices that annoys every one of us: cables. The inappropriate length of the same and especially the lettuce from it brings each one of us to the incandescence. Cleaning forces that paralyzed companies' servers because they unintentionally pulled the power plug are legendary.

 

Nikolas Tesla loved wireless

Under the motto "kill the power cable", many manufacturers of electrical and electronic devices are already making efforts to make the umbilical cord into a power source superfluous. Nikolas Tesla made the beginning of this 120 years ago. In the meantime, this trend has also reached furniture. Some pieces are able to transmit energy wirelessly and thus alleviate a contemporary epidemic - the latently depleted batteries of smartphones, tablets and friends.

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Night box or kitchen plate as charging station

On the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, for example, an intelligent night starter is currently looking for financiers. The venture seems to be pointless, since the development team "Surface Charge" was only able to collect 5 percent of the funds required for production four days before the financing came to an end. That's a pity, because this handmade piece of furniture fills up the power stores of smartphones, smart watches, tablets and other devices as soon as they are placed on them. Perhaps this failure is due to the fact that furniture with comparable capabilities already exists on the market. The Michigan-based startup Urbaneer presented a wireless kitchen at the CES 2018. A smart desktop provides wireless charging for digital devices. But that's not all: if required, it can also be transformed into a hob.

 

Each surface becomes a touch screen

In order to enjoy the advantages of a smart kitchen, you don't have to replace your entire collection of old furniture with new appliances. Sony has had a device on the market for some time now that transforms just about any surface into a smart surface. With Sony Xperia Projector, you can surf the web on the same worktop while kneading dough for your homemade pizza. Yes, but that makes sense - because you can try out completely new recipes from the WWW and don't have to operate your tablet or smartphone with pasty flour fingers. This is just one of the use cases, because the Sony Xperia projector is versatile. It has an interactive projection technology that throws digital content onto every conceivable surface and allows the user to navigate through gestures. The device doesn't have a very interesting new technology on board. Rather, this mixture of tablet and beamer is further proof that by simply combining tried and tested technology, something completely new can be created.



Robot furniture turns small apartments into large apartments

This smart furniture group from the USA is also creating something completely new - and even on demand. The Boston-based Startup Ori, founded by MIT Media Lab, uses its solution to turn a small apartment into a huge apartment with almost any number of rooms. Ori does not take the abbreviation Virtual Reality, but real kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms or cellars. The company's developers have developed robotic furniture that transforms a room into exactly the rooms you want. Even special wishes such as separate bedrooms, for example, if there is thick air between the residents, are immediately fulfilled. You can control the robotic setup either via the integrated keyboard, an app or via Amazon Echo. The solution that makes the best use of expensive living space is already available in two different versions.

 

Upholstered furniture as a family therapist

Of course, furniture always influences the quality of their users' coexistence - at least a little bit. The sofa, which Leon's, the great Canadian furniture retailer, developed in an experiment, influences the everyday life of its owners more than one would expect from upholstered furniture. After all, the good thing measures the amount of time the residents spend with each other - for example, a family including pets. Specifically, the system collects and evaluates the valuable "family time". Hotspots integrated into the sofa connect to the bracelets or collars that every family member wears all the time. In this way, the sofa knows exactly who spent time together with which family member and when - in other words, valuable "family time". An app then provides detailed results for each individual family member (see the "the results" tab on the far right) such as which people have spent most of their time together, on which day the family was least together and which person or pet spent most of the time with at least one other family member. One thing is certain about this project: the findings will make everyone of us who dares to experiment with it think twice. Or is it natural for you to spend four times as much time with the family dog as with your eldest son?



Conclusion: How digitization fuses furniture and technology

Digitization does not only lead to making machines or mere things into smart machines and intelligent things. It also ensures that interfaces and, consequently, communication between man and machine are becoming increasingly natural and natural. For example, it is enough to put an empty smartphone on the table to recharge it. It is enough to turn on a projector to create a touch screen from each surface that puts the entire WWW at your feet or wherever you want it. With a simple voice command, you can already transform your apartment into exactly the rooms you want to use. And finally, thanks to digitization, upholstered furniture is able to act as a family therapist - or at least to provide a human colleague with informative data about his patients. This is both fascinating and frightening.

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Daniel ZAPFL

Born in Graz, Austria. After positions as project manager & head of innovation of the project management at LEAD Innovation, Daniel Zapfl has been responsible for the success of the innovation projects of our innovation partners since January 2018.

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