A research team from MIT recently debuted these smart, clean energy charging stations, or "SOFT Rockers," as part of MIT’s 150th-anniversary Festival of Art+Science+Technology (FAST) celebration. They're disguised as conventional outdoor rocking furniture, but their sleek solar design will charge or run any USB device, including speakers, cell phones, and music players.
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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 the 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. The SOFT Rocker combines 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. The SOFT Rocker blurs 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’.