MIT's solar powered soft rocker

Lay back and relax outdoors with your laptop, tablet or phone without any fear of losing juice. The SOFT Rocker by architecture students at MIT is a teardrop-shaped modern lounger with built-in lighting and solar panels that power up small electronic devices. It’s a high tech modern rocking chair that lets you lay back in comfort with your phone, tablet or laptop.

Solar lounger powers gadgets

Flexible solar panels follow the curve of the rocker’s ‘roof,’ feeding a 12 amp-hour battery that provides power via USB to gadgets and even chilled drink dispensers. The rockers rotate on their bases so the users can follow the movements of the sun throughout the day.

Glow in the dark lounger

The user also has the power to angle the solar panels higher or lower depending on how they lay inside the rocker, acting as a ‘second axis’ of the solar tracker. The MIT team wanted an interactive experience, making energy generation something the user can participate in rather than something that happens behind a fence or wall in a large-scale facility.

Lounger at night

Lounger detail

The solar lounger is made of flat MDF panels developed using the ‘zipshape’ process, in which flat-packed materials are laser-cut in a way that resembles rows of teeth and then interlocked with each other to produce a strong yet flexible result. The individual panels are glued together and then vacuum-sealed in plastic bags until dry.

“Unlike conventional “hard” urban infrastructure, the SOFT Rocker leverages its environment in a dynamic manner by using the human power of balance to create an interactive 1.5 axis 35 watt solar tracking system. Soft power electronics designed for this project charge the 12 ampere-hour battery and store solar energy harvested during the day. Put your body weight in play with an interactive, real-time, energy-harvesting feedback loop that senses how you orient the rocker to the sun. Charge or run any USB device from speakers to cell phones and bring your friends to enjoy cool lighting loops at night for social gatherings.”

“The leaf-like loop form of SOFT Rockers explores how standard softwood panels can be mass-customized to adapt to the latitude and sun angle of any site using parametric design software and automated fabrication with a lightweight KUKA robotic arm. SOFT Rockers combine hi-tech and low-tech design strategies: it produces electricity but engages the body and works like furniture ‘by hand’; it mixes sun tracking and social dynamics; it is a site specific object and a flexible form family of ‘soft’ wood construction. SOFT Rockers blur distinctions between pleasure and work and recasts power generation as an integrated and distributed public activity rather than a centralized, singular off-site project of ‘engineering.'”