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This trippy box puts a disco spin on home automation

This trippy box puts a disco spin on home automation

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Studio apartments can get pretty tiny, but MIT is working on a new arrangement that could make them feel a whole lot bigger. For several years now, it's been iterating on a concept product called CityHome that could efficiently pack key pieces of an apartment into a single modular unit, allowing owners to pull out a bed or a table and then store it again when they're through with it in order to free up space. Many concepts and even some actual products have already done this, but MIT's latest vision goes far beyond simple storage.

Just speak to get a party startedThe new vision would also allow the entire unit to move, sliding from side to side across an apartment to create more space in whichever room a person happens to be using. Items specific to that room might be built into the wall too, so that sliding the unit from one room into another might reveal a faucet on one side for use in a bathroom.

This latest vision also tries to make the CityHome a bit more high-tech — and a bit more fun. For one, it'd respond to voice commands and hand gestures, allowing stored items to automatically fold out or be pulled back in with the wave of an arm. MIT envisions CityHome being connected to the rest of the apartment too, so gestures could be used to control lighting or whether the window shades are raised. The unit would also have long and colorful lighting strips built in that could start flashing disco-style whenever you say that you're ready to party. They're only a little bit tacky.

An older vision of CityHome, from 2011.

"One potential scenario for the CityHome is where the bedroom transforms to a home gym, the living room to a dinner party space for 14 people, a suite for four guests, two separate office spaces plus a meeting space, or an open loft space for a large party," MIT Media Lab says in its description of the project. "Each occupant engages in a process to personalize the precise design of the wall units according to his or her unique activities and requirements." The goal is to make CityHome just 840 square feet in size, but capable of effectively adding two to three times that much space to an apartment.

FastCo Design spoke with one of the project's leaders, and he tells them that CityHome will eventually be more than a concept. Either through a startup or a sponsor, he intends to actually bring it to market, though there's no word on when that may be.