MIT Wants to Furnish Your Tiny Apartment

The Media Lab's latest invention is a multi-purpose furniture unit.

A lot of cool demos have come out of MIT’s Media Lab through the years, so you can imagine that when they turned their attention to the realm of home furnishings, things got fancy.

The Media Lab’s Changing Places group has uploaded a video demonstration of CityHome, a transformable multi-purpose piece of furniture they designed to make your 200-square-foot apartment feel three times larger. Not only does the unit double as a desk, dinner table, lighting fixture, bed, and moveable wall, but it has built in sensors, motors, and LED lights. In the demo, a man controls it with voice, touch, and movement so he can have dinner, expand his bathroom, or have a tame-looking dance party.

This all seems futuristic in exactly the way people have long imagined the future might look. Movies and TV shows have often predicted that our homes would grow smarter over time. Remember the casual control the Jetsons constantly exerted over their closets and breakfast tables? Or that Disney Channel TV movie Smart House, where kids used their high-tech home to dance to terrible boy bands (until the home turned dystopian on them.) Our depictions of the future have constantly imagined how we might control our home furnishing to make our lives more efficient.

What people didn’t get right about the smart housing of the future back in the day was our motivation for making it. Space seemed so unlimited in the 1960s that the Jetsons had to use conveyor belts to get around their huge home. Now, urban efficiency rules the day. The city of Boston, like many others, has pushed for development of micro apartments of around 375 square feet. Now, more than ever, technological innovations to make small spaces feel larger can help make the micro-apartment lifestyle attractive.