A look inside an apartment testing ‘architectural robotics’ in Seaport

New Developments Renting
Ori Systems seen at Watermark Seaport.
Ori Systems seen at Watermark Seaport. Jean Nagy /

Walk inside the Watermark Seaport and you’ll find a typical luxury apartment lobby: a front desk, chic decor, and mood lighting. But take the elevator up to the third floor and you’ll find something entirely new — an apartment using “architectural robotics” to make a small space feel bigger and more livable.

When you first step into the 481-square-foot unit it appears to be a pretty traditional, if tiny, luxury studio. There’s a kitchen along a single wall to the left, a bed area to the right and a living room next to that. Floor-to-ceiling windows beam natural light into the space, which features high-end finishes and stainless steel appliances.

A wall separates the bed space from the living room, and it’s a closer examination of the wall that reveals something special about this apartment.

There’s a control pad on the side, which allows the wall to move. Move the wall to the left and the bedroom gets bigger, or to the right and the living room gets bigger, transforming the space for your immediate needs.

It’s also more than a wall, really. There are cubbies, cabinets and closets embedded into the unit. The bed can be tucked underneath and a panel folded down into a desk surface, transforming the bedroom into a home office. And everything is controlled by the button or by an app on your phone.

“Our idea can bring robotic technology to real estate,” Hasier Larrea said while standing in the unit. Larrea is a mechanical engineer and the CEO of Ori Systems, the company that developed the dynamic smart home technology. “[We looked at] how to use technology to make spaces bigger. People that live in studios complain about the division of space.”

See inside the Watermark Seaport unit:

Ori Systems came out of a project at MIT Media Lab’s CityHome and promises “to liberate urban design, provide new user experiences, and unlock the potential of the places we increasingly want to live, work and play.” The company worked with real estate developers Skanska to put a test system in the Watermark Seaport.

Hasier said Ori wanted to tackle three main problems for studio units: the division of space, the need for more storage, and the problem of the bed.

“It’s all about customization,” Hasier said. “Space shouldn’t boil down to square footage. What if tech could turn 400 square feet into 600 square feet.”

Hasier will continue to test the units in Watermark and in a few other cities across the country for the next six months and then hopes to start putting Ori Systems into real, livable units at the start of 2017.