Can You Use Robotics to Double the Size of Your House?

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With more than 54% of the world's population now living in cities according to the U.N., many citizens are learning how to make do with less - especially when it comes to smaller living and working spaces. But there are still important barriers keeping us from living in smaller spaces.

Hasier Larrea is an engineer, designer and CEO of MorphLab. He argues that the use of robotics holds the key for making living spaces act like if they were twice or three times bigger. Hasier holds a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering and led the Architectural Robotics research area at the MIT Media Lab, which focuses on creating a new generation of hyper efficient and responsive urban spaces. His team developed the robotic tools that allow traditional architectural and furniture elements to transform and intelligently connect to the world around us. At MorphLab, he is now taking the research from the lab into our homes.

I spoke to Hasier ahead of his presentation at the Connected Home Summit in Boston on 12-13 May. 

Can you tell us about MorphLab and why you started the company?
MorphLab is a new company that resulted from all the research that happened under the CityHome project at the MIT Media Lab (see video below). After countless demos, my team and I realized that the technologies we were integrating were mature enough to be deployed at scale.  This approach towards deployment is by the way coherent with how the slogan of the Media Lab has evolved over the years, from "demo or die" to "deploy".

What are some of the challenges to how MorphLab works?
Challenges are not technical, but more cultural. MorphLab is trying to disrupt one of the least innovative industries out there, real estate, and that is always challenging. Also, from an end user perspective, there is this stigma that robots are humanoid systems that will eventually "try to conquer the world", without realizing that all those appliances that make our lives simpler -microwaves, vacuum cleaner, dishwashers...are robots too. 

How are you using robotics to change our living spaces?
We come from a time where our activities had to adapt to space. This is extremely inefficient, as the only way for example to fit someone into 200 sq ft is to have a tiny bed, tiny couch, tiny desk, tiny bathroom. Of course, all the activities can not happen at the same time, so most of the space is unused most of the time. With the use of robotics it is potentially possible to have 200 sq ft of a bedroom, 200 sq ft of a dining room, 200 sq ft of an office. It changes the space paradigm. 

How will IoT help to create smart, connected homes?
Thermostats, lights and locks are just the beginning of the connected home era. They are all peripherals. Soon the furniture, walls, floors, will be connected too, creating much more meaningful applications that understand better the people and the activities happening in the space. Unfortunately IoT is becoming a suitcase word. The IoT in the home will mainly mean a programmable home that customizes to people's needs. The home of the future is a platform for customization, like mobile phones in some sense.

What industries do you think will be disrupted by IoT in the future? And how?
That will mainly depend on the ability of creating meaningful applications. Connecting something to the Internet is not enough unless you find a killer application for it. That is why the home has not really been truly disrupted by IoT yet. Controlling a light from your mobile phone is not a particularly exciting use of the IoT. Home automation is still in its infancy. Open standards and platforms will be key to create those meaningful applications in different industries. The industries that embrace this type of value co-creation will be leading the way. 


Hasier Larrea will be speaking at the
RE•WORK Connected Home Summit in Boston on 12-13 May 2016. Other speakers include Blade Kotelly, VP of Design at Jibo; David Isbitski, Chief Evangelist of Alexa and Echo and Amazon; Rahul Bhattacharyya, Research Scientist at MIT; and Andreas Gal, Founder & CEO of Silk Labs. 

Tickets are limited for this event, for more information and to register please visit the event page here.

Connected Home Home Automation Robotics IoT Connected Devices Sensors Connected Home Summit


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