Bot and sold: High-tech robotic homes are taking over NYC

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Bot and sold: High-tech robotic homes are taking over NYC

Robots may one day rule the world — but for now, they’re taking over New York City apartments to ease the cramp of small-space liv

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Robots may one day rule the world — but for now, they’re taking over New York City apartments to ease the cramp of small-space living.

At least three Big Apple buildings have installed, or offer the option to include, robotic systems that — with the use of a touchpad, a smartphone or a resident’s voice — can reveal and conceal beds, wardrobes and desks.

Not just useful for providing creative storage, they also give the illusion of living in a larger apartment.

One city development to include these mechanisms is The Smile rental designed by BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group at 158 E. 126th St. in East Harlem, with 163 market-rate units. There, five units — four studios and a one-bedroom — will come kitted out with systems from Bumblebee, a San Francisco company whose modular furniture fixtures help create more room.

One of the homes is a 470-square-foot studio whose already installed, and ceiling-anchored, Bumblebee system can raise and lower a bed, as well as wardrobe storage, by phone and voice.

A console and a coffee table, which both stay on the ground in the open living area, double as a respective long nightstand and a footboard with storage when the bed comes down from above — turning the living room into a bedroom.

“The vision of Bumblebee has always been to make beautifully efficient space so it becomes affordable,” said Sankarshan Murthy, the company’s CEO and co-founder. “You’re not paying for two or three rooms that you’re not using all the time, but you’re getting the rooms whenever you want.”

There’s also no need for as many furnishings because the system is built-in — but still, the efficiency comes for a price. This unit asks $2,663 per month in net-effective rent, which is a figure that factors in concessions — in this case four months free on a 16-month lease. (It’s listed for $3,550.)

Without Bumblebee, a 495-square-foot studio asks $2,171 in net-effective rent. (It’s listed for $2,895.) That makes the robo-studio just slightly cheaper than a Bumblebee-free, 623-square-foot one-bedroom asking a net-effective $2,764 per month (listed for $3,225).

Designed by former Apple and Tesla engineers, the Bumblebee system uses software that catalogs stored-away items, such as an umbrella for rainy days, that can be summoned on demand. It also relies on cubic space for its layout — specifically maximizing use of the ceiling — as opposed to square footage.

“It shouldn’t feel like you’re living in a closet with Murphy beds,” said Murthy. “I want to live in a place that is futuristic, that feels like Ironman’s house, that changes based on [what you] ask.”

A robo home that the Skyline Tower.
Skyline Tower in Long Island City, Queens, offers buyers the Cloud Bed and Pocket Closet System from Ori.
Jesper Norgaard

In Long Island City, the 801-unit Skyline Tower condo — with prices from $680,000 for a studio — offers buyers of all apartments the option to install the Cloud Bed and Pocket Closet system from Ori, a separate company that also focuses on space-saving transformable furniture. (Pricing dependent on system size and customizations.)

The Cloud Bed, similarly, raises and lowers from the ceiling — revealing a couch and a coffee table in the living area in its up position. Modern Spaces, which is handling sales and marketing, outfitted a model studio unit with this feature, as well as with a Pocket Closet that reveals a walk-in closet with retractable hangers behind a television console that slides across the floor.

A home at Essex Crossing with Ori installed.
Thanks to Ori at the Artisan at Essex Crossing in the Lower East Side, homes are tricked out with furniture that retracts and expands at the touch of the button or by voice command.
QuallsBenson

Ori primarily works from a touch pad, says its founder and CEO Hasier Larrea, as well as by phone and voice. Another one of its systems already comes installed in 10 units (studios and one-bedrooms) at The Artisan at Essex Crossing — a 263-unit development at 108 Broome St. in Manhattan where 142 apartments are market-rate. (Rents from roughly $3,000 for a studio.)

It separates space … and then it adds a ton of storage, which is another big issue that studio dwellers complain about.

Ori CEO Hasier Larrea

There, this unhidden system has storage, a pull-out desk and certain ones have beds that slide out from beneath. 

“It separates space,” said Larrea of an extra benefit of having this Ori installation also function as a dividing wall.

“When you live in these smaller apartments, especially when you live with your partner, you want to have some kind of separation of your space — and then it adds a ton of storage, which is another big issue that studio dwellers complain about.”

About six of these apartments are already spoken for — and Larrea adds the remainder have become popular among prospective tenants.

“We’re starting to get many more requests through social media ads,” he said.

At The Artisan, the average rent premium for a studio with Ori is $200, meaning that much more per month over a standard studio. Meanwhile, the average rent for a one-bedroom is $800 higher than an Ori unit, giving a tenant a home that mimics a one-bedroom for that much less in rent.

“The goal is to give you an apartment that’s as affordable as we can make it [and] as liveable as we can make it, said David Dishy, president at L+M Development Partners, part of the joint venture that developed The Artisan. “The Ori allows us in theory to give you a greater feeling of space, which translates into a lower rent for you.”

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