Ever needed a private meeting space in an open office? MIT, Google invented one

Open office spaces look cool and offer a more open workspace, but disruption and lack of privacy are ongoing issues. Inspired by a conversation with Google, MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab designed a drop-down cubicle that creates a private meeting area in open space, according to ZDNet.

The Transformable Meeting Space can be installed in existing open office spaces or factory floors without significant structural or electromechanical requirements. You just need a high enough ceiling and the means to hang the retractable shell at a sufficient height from the floor.

The self-forming meeting pod is comprised of 36 felt-lined fiberglass rods woven together. The structure remains suspended above the floor until needed. When someone wants to call a private meeting, or simply have a place to focus or work without disruption, the transformation is easy. The felt lining on the rods keeps noise from traveling outside the pod.

A counter weighted, mechanical pulley system with two handles hangs from the retractable shell. Pull one handle and the shell gradually drops down. The concept design example forms an enclosure with space for six to eight people that measures 8 feet tall and 10 feet in diameter. When the meeting is over, or you no longer need private space, pull the second handle and the structure rises out of the way.

Employee backlash about open space offices is growing, according to Fortune.  The list of complaints include constant disruption, decreased productivity, the increased spread of communicable diseases, and, in a cited Bloomberg article, “being forced to listen to phone calls about the veterinary issues of your co-workers’ cats.”

So if open offices are falling out of favor, the lure of the open concept boosting collaboration and joint creativity is still strong. Startups adding and changing employees and work groups on the fly are drawn to the versatility of offices without walls.

Alternative solutions like the Transformable Meeting Space could be one method to have it both ways without disruptive structural change or high expense. A suspended gridwork with multiple retractable pods of different sizes that could be repositioned would enable a large, open space to be reconfigured for private work and group meeting spaces as needed.

The Self-Assembly Lab is a “cross-disciplinary research lab at MIT inventing self-assembly and programmable material technologies aimed at reimagining construction, manufacturing, product assembly and performance,” according to the lab’s website.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Computing

LG’s new monitor gives you screen space galore without hurting your wallet

LG's new 32-inch display could be your next great upgrade. For $350, it offers the complete package of high resolution, high refresh rate, and 32 inches of screen space. What more do you need?
Smart Home

This device detects when your pet is at the door and opens it for them

Tired of waiting for your dog to come inside, or running home in the middle of the day to let your four-legged friend out? Wayzn automatically opens sliding doors for your dog and gives you remote control.
Computing

Microsoft’s latest patent paves the way for Andromeda dual-screen mobile device

The latest patent discovery from Microsoft showcases a new hinge design for quickly opening a dual-screen mobile device with a single hand. Could this be additional proof surrounding the rumors of the company's Project Andromeda device?
Smart Home

Knock, knock. Who's there? With a video doorbell, you'll never have to guess

When it comes to knowing who's at your door before you actually open it, there's nothing better than a video doorbell. Plus, you can "answer" the door even if you're not home. Here are some of our favorites.
Emerging Tech

Bright ‘hyperactive’ comet should be visible in the sky this weekend

An unusual green comet, 46P/Wirtanen, will be visible in the night sky this month as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 20 years. It may even be possible to see the comet without a telescope.
Emerging Tech

Meet the MIT scientist who’s growing semi-sentient cyborg houseplants

Elowan is a cybernetic plant that can respond to its surroundings. Tethered by a few wires and silver electrodes, the plant-robot hybrid can move in response to bioelectrochemical signals that reflect the plant’s light demands.
Emerging Tech

Gorgeous images show storms and cloud formations in the atmosphere of Jupiter

NASA's Juno mission arrived at Jupiter in 2016 and has been collecting data since then. NASA has shared an update on the progress of the mission as it reaches its halfway point, releasing stunning images of the planet as seen from orbit.
Emerging Tech

Beautiful image of young planets sheds new light on planet formation

Researchers examining protoplanetary disks -- the belts of dust that eventually form planets -- have shared fascinating images of the planets from their survey, showing the various stages of planet formation.
Emerging Tech

Delivery robot goes up in flames while out and about in California

A small meal-delivery robot suddenly caught fire in Berkeley, California, on Friday. The blaze was quickly tackled and no one was hurt, but the incident is nevertheless a troubling one for the fledgling robot delivery industry.
Emerging Tech

High-tech dancing robot turns out to be a guy in a costume

A Russian TV audience was impressed recently by an adult-sized "robot" that could dance and talk. But when some people began pointing out that its actions were a bit odd, the truth emerged ... it was a fella in a robot suit.
Emerging Tech

MIT’s smart capsule could be used to release drugs in response to a fever

Researchers have developed a 3D-printed capsule which can monitor patients' vital signs, transmit this information to a connected device, and release drugs in response to symptoms.
Emerging Tech

‘Crop duster’ robot is helping reseed the Great Barrier Reef with coral

In a world first, an undersea robot has delivered microscopic coral larvae to the Great Barrier Reef. Meet Larvalbot: the robot "crop duster" which dispenses coral babies on troubled reefs.
Emerging Tech

Self-driving dirt rally vehicle offers crash course in autonomous car safety

Georgia Tech's AutoRally initiative pushes self-driving cars to their limit by getting scaled-down autonomous vehicles to drive really, really fast and aggressively on dirt roads. Here's why.