At these new River West apartments, robots move your walls on command

The robotic walls are the brainchild of Ori, a Boston firm that grew out of a project at the Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology that raised $6 million in startup funding in 2017, according to The Robot Report. Rambaud, former head of a logistics firm who’s now investing in other ventures, is an investor in Ori and the developer and owner of Avenir.

“The name of the building means ‘future,’” Rambaud said, “and these Ori walls are part of the future of living in smaller apartments.”

With Tandem, Rambaud put a single Ori unit into Mode, a Logan Square apartment building, in 2017. Another firm is also testing a single Ori unit in a downtown Chicago apartment building, he said. A building in Boston that features Ori walls opened in September.

Avenir is the first Chicago building designed from the start to have Ori in some units, Rambaud said. Not all the studio units have Ori walls, but renters pay the same price for either type of studio. Studios in the building start at $1,445 a month. There are also one-bedrooms, starting at $2,650 a month, and two bedrooms, starting at $2,995.

The first move-ins were January 16. About 30 units are leased, Hreben said.

Along with maximizing the space in a studio, the Ori units minimize a new renter’s upfront costs for furniture. The living room side of the wall has shelving and a desk or small dining table, and the bedroom side includes the bed (but no mattress), shelving and lights.

“All the furniture you need to buy to move in is a couch and a mattress,” Hreben said, as well as dishes and linens, of course.

Safety features of the Ori include a sensor that stops the unit’s motion if a cat or dog is in the way. The Ori unit doesn’t close flat against a permanent wall, but leaves a gap large enough that a person can’t be crushed inside. That space is also wide enough to put a nightstand that would remain in place regardless of which position the Ori is in.

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