Although we’re used to seeing various forms of technology in our homes and offices, we don’t normally associate the latest in high tech with modern décor. RockPaperRobot, a design firm that specializes in inventing and making kinetic furniture, aims to use physics to design furniture that will revolutionize residential and commercial spaces.
Jessica Banks, founder of RockPaperRobot, spoke to International Business Times about how the company transforms traditionally static furniture into responsive objects using innovative engineering techniques.
What Is RockPaperRobot?
Banks, a roboticist, product designer and interactive artist, launched the New York-based startup in 2009 to create versatile furniture for today’s technological age. Her company uses physics and engineering principles to make various pieces of furniture cohere into single, responsive pieces of furniture.
“Most of our living rooms from our childhood probably haven’t changed that much, and to me, that’s a bit ridiculous, because we require so much versatility from almost every other object that we interact with now,” Banks told IBTimes. “Why don’t we associate this kind of power [with] our décor and our furniture? I’m really trying to be able to plant that seed.”
How Technology Meets Modern Décor
The Float coffee table is one of the company’s signature pieces that levitates to serve as functional art. The table is a matrix of 54 magnetized hollow wooden cubes held together in equilibrium with magnets and steel cables.
The company also makes floating shelves that levitate outward from walls, and a robotic chandelier, a diamond-shaped Brag table made from Corian and a clock that turns and displays the time with sand arrows.
“One thing I think about is how the evolution of furniture has gone and where we’re going,” Banks said. “We see things like the Jetsons where there’s a chair with one point and it’s balancing and moving around. I like to think of what we do as a genetic mutation in the evolution of design and décor. It’s a mutation that actually builds more fitness for the future, so it allows more flexibility, versatility for people in their lives and also allows them to be able to control the esthetics of their surroundings.”
Banks said the target market for the company is currently high-end office spaces, hotels and restaurants. The made-to-order tables and chandeliers cost around $15,000. They can be customized with a selection of woods and finishes, but special orders may increase production time and price.
The Next Phase For RockPaperRobot
The company currently sells sensor-based robotic chandeliers and is working on new 3D-printed models.
“We’re at an amazing point in the company,” Banks said. “Previously, all of our models have been very high-end, one-off pieces, more along the lines of functional art. Those are considered to be aspirational pieces, and they build brand caché and get us attention. Now we are expanding to accessible pieces.”
RockPaperRobot is also is expanding their collection to reach a broader demographic with a new transformable table that is ideal for both residential and commercial spaces. The table can be stored flat on the wall to conserve space when it's not in use, and it slides down and out to serve as a shelf, desk or dining table that's up to six feet long.
“We’re increasing our output by a thousand very soon and are going to triple in size over the next two years,” Banks said. “Our next product will be something that is more accessible to everybody and actually can be used in not only homes and residences, but even more importantly, in commercial spaces that want to have more ability to change the space.”
As the startup prepares to scale up production over the next year, Banks' main goal is to maintain her creative control, even if it means stepping down as chief executive officer.
“The biggest step will be for me to step down in the company from CEO because I know that my talent and my passion is in building and creating these pieces that are very much embedded in physics,” said Banks. “For the company to really be successful, someone else who knows how to make successful companies should be doing that, and I can stay as head of product and design, which is the most important thing for me, personally, and also for the company.”