Eighteen years after it first rolled onto the floors of Silicon Valley pirates, Herman Miller’s Aeron chair is still a symbol of corporate status and geek chic, though its glory is fading somewhat as mesh surfaces and ergonomic adjustments are eclipsed by integrated tech. It seems as though there’s an iPod-friendly piece of furniture for every room in the house–and then some–but sticking a dock and some speakers into a Stratolounger is just the beginning.
As technology grows, more and more people are concerned with how to incorporate that technology into pretty much every aspect of our daily lives—from how we access our personal information such as banking account numbers and tax information to how we work to how we sit and lounge. Hence, the beginning of technological furniture was born.
Sur la Table
When Microsoft teased the world with Surface back in 2007 (remember? It was that table that had a computer built right in so that a person could easily sit down and work on his or her desktop without having to set up the PC directly onto the table), it seemed as though the dream of a true Trek-like work environment would soon come to the waking world.
Fast forward to 2012: The computer-on-a-tabletop that is so much more than an overgrown iPad with legs has been rechristened PixelSense as its original moniker has been passed on to the company’s latest tablet offering.
Picture if you will: You sit down for your morning ration of soylent green, and while you crunch away on that protein-rich goodness, the breakfast table itself interacts with you. Swipe it–doth it not scroll? Tap it–doth it not select? Place your smartphone on it and it doth sync and charge, all while delivering your email, personalized news, and smell-o-vision factory work schedule. It’s a dream come true, and while it sounds like something out of The Jetsons, it could be a reality in the not-so-distant future.
The marriage of furniture and gadgetry will produce offspring that is functional. While companies like Apple excel at creating objects that skimp on neither function nor design, you can’t sleep on your MacBook Air. In order to appeal to consumers who have not memorized the names of every actor who has ever played The Doctor, furniture designers are looking for ways to integrate functional tech that stays behind the scenes.
Turn your mind’s eye toward the near future, where by day, your couch seats three comfortably for tea and scones. At nightfall, when the family unit sits down for the 39th season premiere of The Simpsons, what was a couch has reconfigured itself into a wide sprawling mass, perfect for romping children and world-weary parents alike. Imagine cubicles that sense your tension level and adjust ambient lighting for optimal stress-reduction. For a taste of the future of furniture tech, we need only look to the East.
The Final Frontier
If one nation can claim to be the United States’ superior when it comes to technological innovation, that would have to be Japan. Well known to Western consumers as the birthplace of top-notch color televisions, reliable and safe automobiles, and skyscraper-sized automatons that can devastate the surface of a planet or turn into a truck, the Land of the Rising Sun has been outpacing all the other nations of the world for decades in advancing the technology of the toilet.
Whereas a Western commode simply provides us the means to dispose of bodily waste, a Japanese loo makes a trip to the restroom something to look forward to. With built-in bidets, seat warmers, chemical analyzers, and perfume sprayers, going potty is no longer just a necessary bodily function–it is an experience. With the increasing hunger that Western consumers have for high-tech furniture, it’s only a matter of time before that hunger necessitates a trip to the water closet, and it is then that they will realize that every room could use an upgrade. All eyes will turn Eastward…
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