Imagine transforming your bedroom into open space for an office, workout room, or playroom at the touch of a button…and then turning it back into a bedroom at the end of the day. It may sound crazy, but a new company called Bumblebee Spaces is working hard to make it a reality.
How It Works
Bumblebee Spaces, a startup technology venture, has developed a furniture system of drawers, beds, and wardrobes that is entirely stored on the ceiling using an innovative suspension system. Operated by an app on your smartphone or tablet, the furniture pieces are elevated upwards when not in use, leaving an empty room for you to use as you like.
Indian engineer Sankarshan Murthy relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area from Baltimore to work at Apple, and later, Tesla. He knew the rent prices there was among the most expensive in the world (Silicon Valley rents have almost doubled since 2010), but was still amazed at how small each unit was given the cost. He then started mulling over options with Bumblebee co-founder Garrett Rayner, also formerly employed by Tesla, to address the bay’s oppressively small apartments, eventually landing on the idea of ceiling-suspended furniture.
Murthy often watched Disney Junior on TV with his 18-month-old daughter. One show on the network, The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, features a clubhouse that magically changes to accommodate the characters’ ever-changing needs. For example, when Mickey is entertaining, the clubhouse has tables and chairs for guests. When Goofy is getting ready to prepare a meal, the space morphs into a kitchen. Murthy believed that shape-shifting concept could be applied to real living spaces, and thus Bumblebee was born.
Working Out The Glitches
Murthy and a select team of designers and engineers started experimenting with and building the robotic furniture concept in a garage in the San Francisco Mission District. With the input of one of Apple’s leading designers, they streamlined the appearance of the furniture itself and worked on debugging the system. Today, about a dozen apartments have the Bumblebee Spaces system installed in them, with growth potential looking good.
Of course, Bumblebee’s game-changing technology is still undergoing some growing pains. For instance, at least three tenants who have the system in their small apartments admit that it sometimes malfunctions when they attempt to lower the bed. This is because an important safety feature prevents any furniture items from ever being lowered if their sensors detect any objects on the floor beneath them. Unfortunately, these sensors occasionally detect objects that aren’t there. And while the company can override the system remotely in these instances, it’s easy to see how this glitch could be extremely irritating to users who just want to climb into bed at the end of a long, tiring day.
Since production has been scheduled on an as-needed basis at this point, the cost for the system and furniture currently lies somewhere between $6,000 and $10,000 per room based on the cubic footage of the space. Software, system updates, and maintenance cost another $200 to $400 a month.
Even for top-salaried tech industry execs, these prices are high. Murthy anticipates that once installation can be subcontracted as the company grows, they will drastically drop, leaving Bumblebee Spaces free to concentrate on quality assurance and cost-effective upgrades.