This Robotic Table Is Not Just Cool, It Helps People With Disabilities

published Jul 21, 2018
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(Image credit: Wolfgang Gil)

We still have a long way to go with prioritizing accessibility for people with disabilities. On the bright side, there are extraordinarily inventive minds like industrial designer Nour Malaeb, who is working to amend this widespread issue with projects like Relay, a fully customizable, voice-activated, table-ottoman combo.

(Image credit: Wolfgang Gil)

Malaeb came up with the idea after observing his best friend with muscular dystrophy struggle to maneuver with tasks around the house during the their days as roommates. The designer’s creation began to take shape based on the particular challenges he’d witnessed his friend face (pouring coffee, pushing up off the couch) and info Malaeb gleaned from MIT’s research on robotic furniture. The resulting prototype eliminates the need for doing the DIY version of customizing as it responds to commands and has the ability to adjust its own height based on user specifications.

(Image credit: Nour Malaeb)

“Each piece of furniture is able to carry out simple but meaningful tasks for its owner, from carrying heavy items around the home, to helping someone stand up from a seated position, to providing extra support and stability while walking from room to room,” Malaeb writes of Relay. “Relay aims to help disabled people live more independently, without making aesthetic sacrifices.”

In the meantime, Malaeb has major ideas for the future. To address what he describes as “a lack of assistive devices designed to fit into our homes,” he plans to focus on the reaction of customized furniture designed based on the individual customer’s specific needs. He also has a strategy to address the issue of affordability by developing FDA-approved furniture and making existing pieces of furniture accessible by adding robotic components to them.