Skip to main content

Transformer Houses: Ori and the Shape-Shifting Future of Dwelling

Ori, Inc is a startup focused on smart furniture that maximizes the use of small flats and restricted spaces through shape-shifting functionality. I was fortunate to collaborate on an early stage of the Ori prototype, back in its early stages at the MIT Media Lab. That’s when I met Hasier Larrea, the engineer, mastermind, and (now) CEO of Ori. Hasier has been using SketchUp to visualize his concepts for a long time and today he shares with us some of the magic of prototyping using SketchUp!

ORI has been using SketchUp to test and simulate several kinetic features and functionalities that made it all the way to the final product.

ORI is a transformable furniture system that offers intelligent space on demand with the touch of a button.

Hi Hasier! Please introduce yourself to the SketchUp community, and tell us a bit about Ori.

I’m Hasier Larrea, mechanical engineer, designer, CEO of Ori and an avid SketchUp user since I learned how to use it during a summer internship in Shanghai back in 2011.

Urban space is too valuable to be static and unresponsive, so it is time to empower people to live large in a small footprint by bringing the world of robotics into architecture. The first product we’re launching with is just one tiny example of a world where furniture will have superpowers.

ORI Systems_Desk
Make yourself comfortable at your desk... that was previously your TV stand… and a bed before that.

How many Ori are out there, and where is the most likely place we can see or even use one?

We had beta pilots in ten cities across North America in 2017, which we used to improve our product. Now we are starting to deliver commercial systems starting in Boston, New York and DC.

One of our demo units is actually an Airbnb apartment we rent through the site in Boston. We keep the location a bit secret, so that we can keep getting unbiased test users and feedback.

ORI Systems_Bed Configuration_SketchUp ORI Systems_Bed Configuration
ORI has been using SketchUp as a design-iteration, visualisation, and marketing tool to communicate the idea behind its transformable furniture system.

I know that you are a designer by nature and you love using SketchUp. Tell us a bit about the first time you used SketchUp and what makes it your go-to 3D program.

I learned how to use SketchUp while I was doing an internship in a small design firm in China that developed and fabricated new store concepts for European companies in Shanghai. So my first SketchUp model was literally the store of a German Kitchenware company! I realized how quickly you could build early concepts with it compared to more traditional engineering tools,  and that skill became super helpful at MIT as I was working on the first CityHome concepts.

ORI has been using SketchUp to test and simulate several kinetic features and functionalities that made it all the way to the final product.

For our readers who don’t know much about prototyping, can you describe what your objectives and process looks when you are in that stage of design?

Speed of iterations is a key metric in prototyping phases. You learn more in 5 minutes with a prototype than in 5 weeks of discussions. So the quicker you can go from an idea in your brain to a digital model to a prototype the better.

How does SketchUp help you in prototyping and how have you used it in the development of ORI systems?

SketchUp helps me personally  in two ways: I can quickly sketch initial concepts of new Ori systems and  I can import models of our existing detailed Ori systems and display them in the context of architectural plans.

ORI Systems_Control Panel
Transforming your room in a breeze… just like modelling is in SketchUp!

How do you evaluate prototype iterations? Practically, do you keep lots of the same model within one SketchUp file? How do you evaluate which prototypes should move forward?

We use SketchUp mostly for the very early concept designs in the context of 3D apartments, and use those models for internal discussions around whether the concept makes sense or not.

ORI Systems_SketchUp Design Iterations
Early design iterations of ORI systems using SketchUp.

There are lots of modular, repeated elements of geometry in some Ori concepts. How do you decide when to use groups, components, or… go au naturale?

In general we group things based on movement. For instance, the bed as a whole would become a group, so that we can easily move it as one piece.

ORI_Pencil Sketch_SketchUp
Hasier loves the way SketchUp turns 3D models into hand-sketches, and so do we!

What style templates do you use most in SketchUp and why?

I’m a big fan of “Pencil Sketch with Darker Traced lines” to make some quick models look  as if they were my own hand sketches.

What other digital tools are you using for the development of Ori?

We use a bit of everything. AutoCAD for furniture manufacturing, SolidWorks or Onshape for mechanical engineering.

ORI Systems_Mobile app
You guessed it! You can also control your ORI using a mobile app, or even through voice commands!

What skills do you advise students to learn who wish to become inventors and entrepreneurs like yourself?

These are my three favourite tools for quickly prototyping the first pass of a new concept: I enjoy using Arduino for electronics, Processing for software development, and of course SketchUp for 3D design! 

With the right mix of inspired engineering and SketchUp, tiny spaces can become functional and fun!

What does the future hold for Ori and housing altogether?

We aspire to help people see space differently and prove that more square footage does not mean more functionality. By changing this paradigm, we can create an abundance of space in the world, which would solve the housing challenge.

About the Author

Before joining SketchUp, Aris worked as an Architect-Engineer and Urban Designer for more than ten years. He is fascinated with the way stuff works, and can't stop envisioning what the future will look like!

Profile Photo of Aristodimos Komninos