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Despite advances in materials and fabrics, furniture has remained relatively unchanged for decades; but a new trend sees companies packing a variety of technologies into desks, tables, and shelves. The market is still young, but you could see some of these devices in your house very soon.
Built-In Wireless Charging
If you’ve been to IKEA lately, you’ve probably noticed that a few of their pieces of furniture have plastic discs with a cross on them embedded in the wood; these are wireless charging pads that will charge any of your compatible devices. Just put your phone on top of the pad and your battery will start charging.
If your phone isn’t compatible with wireless charging, you can purchase a case from IKEA that will allow it to charge from one of the pads (you can see one in the image below).
Lamps, tables, and nightstands with wireless charging capabilities are currently being sold in stores; if you don’t want to buy new furniture, though, you can buy single or triple charging pads to plug in and set on top of your desk or table.
While the IKEA wireless charging stations need to be plugged into the wall, some companies are looking at furniture that generates power on its own. Studio Natural’s Lucio table is covered with solar panels that convert natural or artificial light into power and transmits it to the built-in USB ports. Plug in your phone or tablet and charge away. There’s even a stand so you can keep working (or playing) while you charge.
A fascinating concept produced by Biophotovoltaics actually powers electronics by taking advantage of the photosynthesis of moss that’s contained within the table. By capturing electrons released during photosynthesis, the Moss Table currently generates enough power to run a digital clock. It’s not much, but scientists hope that a low-power laptop could be kept alive by the table for up to 14 hours in the near future.
Although the project seems to have been scrapped, the iRock rocking chair is worth mentioning—a rocking chair with an iPad dock built in, the chair also charges the tablet by converting motion into energy. The company’s website is down, so it looks like we won’t be seeing this anytime soon, but it could provide a glimpse into what other manufacturers could bring to market in the future.
Slightly less electronically advanced than actually generating power—but maybe a bit more realistic—is hiding cables in furniture. Almost everyone has a mess of cables somewhere in their house—behind the TV, by the desk, under the nightstand. But furniture that incorporates and conceals power cords are starting to show up more often, and they can make a big difference in de-cluttering your home.
This two-drawer nightstand by Modus has a power outlet built into the drawer, letting you charge a few devices overnight without cluttering up your floor with cables and your nightstand with devices.
Similarly, the Herb sofa, a concept piece by designers Burak Kocak, relays power from a wall outlet to an outlet on the side of a built-in bookshelf so you don’t have to use an extension cord (or sit in a specific way) to keep your computer plugged in while you work.
The Cloud Table, created by Studio Maks, is a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture that almost doubles as art—and includes both wireless charging pads and Wi-Fi signal boosters, making it easy for people to power up their devices and stay connected, no matter how far away a router was.
While this table won’t be hitting stores anytime soon (and is almost certainly extremely expensive), this could be a sign of things to come. If this table could generate its own power like the Lucio above, it would be a self-contained tech station that would help people use their devices.
What else could we see built into furniture? Wireless charging, power generation, hidden cables, and Wi-Fi boosters have all been done, so what’s next? Will we see smart home sensors pre-installed in furniture? Although the sensors that come with smart home systems are well-designed, there’s something to be said for being totally concealed in the arm of a couch or the leg of a chair.
Maybe security systems will start to integrate sensors into furniture, so that cameras or motion sensors don’t need to be mounted on walls. Or maybe we’ll see something totally new and unexpected. Microsoft is researching a couch that can use embedded electronics to show emotions (hit play above to see it in action). Who can say what else might show up? We’ll be sure to keep you updated on this cool field as it develops.
What would you like built into your furniture? Have you seen any other types of smart furniture? Where will this field go in the near future? Share your thoughts below!