Neither Bumblebee nor Ori’s robotic furnishings are available to consumers directly, though developers and landlords can buy them and renters in certain cities can try them out. Bumblebee Spaces have been set up in a handful of apartment buildings in Seattle and San Francisco, including a new Starcity co-living space in San Francisco’s South Beach neighborhood. (Typically, renters will pay a monthly premium that’s slightly more than what they’d pay for a non robotically-furnished apartment.)
“It’s very clear to me we’re stuck in a centuries-old model for building a major consumer product,” said Jon Dishotsky, the C.E.O. of Starcity. Founded in 2016, the company operates co-living spaces in Los Angeles and San Francisco targeted at young professionals who rent bedrooms, grown-up dorm-style, with weekly house dinners and other group events. “We’d love to see if this can really scale to hundreds of thousands of units.”
Of course, there’s probably a reason we haven’t yet let robots take over our home furnishings. What if there’s a power outage? Do you have to sleep on your yoga mat? Mr. Larrea said Ori furniture is light enough to move manually if necessary. Mr. Murthy said Bumblebee recommends a backup power generator or offers an optional upgrade with enough built-in power to run the system a handful of times in the case of an outage.
Bumblebee’s premise that much of your daily life will unfold beneath at least 260 pounds of furniture suspended overhead also prompts some questions about its safety. Mr. Murthy said he’s spent years testing the product, first in his own home and then in the lab, and that it is designed with numerous safety sensors. The units comply with existing building codes that allow for overhead plumbing, lighting fixtures and electrical wiring, according to Mr. Murthy. (Bumblebee won’t work in every building — ceilings need to be at least eight feet high, ideally nine or ten.)
Even the most gung-ho developers say they are approaching robotic furniture with caution. Ms. Masi said Brookfield is retrofitting existing units to work with Ori, testing it in various layouts. But they might start building with it in mind in the near future. “There’s a lot of curiosity like, ‘wow, this would be a game changer,’” she said.
Andrew Freedman recently moved to San Francisco for a job as a government consultant on implementing legalized marijuana. He’s paying $2,600 a month to live in Starcity’s Bumblebee apartment, a spacious white bedroom in a renovated Victorian with high ceilings, a bay window and a bed that deploys from the ceiling. “I’ve been trying to explain it to people and it takes awhile, so I show them the YouTube video,” he said. “They have tons of questions.”