MIT Hacks An Ikea Chair, Turns It Into A Bristly Beast

A wild new species of furniture raises spikes when a sitter approaches. And you thought your regular old Ikea chair was uncomfortable!

MIT Hacks An Ikea Chair, Turns It Into A Bristly Beast

Designers have vomited up some awfully uncomfortable chairs over the years. But at least they pretend they’ve made something that belongs in a civilized human environment. Not here. Paris-based designers J.C. Karich and Pauline Jamilloux worked with the MIT Media Lab to hack an Ikea chair and turn it into a spiky, bitchy beast that bristles when people approach. Think of it as the world’s most ergonomically correct porcupine (or the soul of an Ikea chair, laid bare).


Karich developed the so-called Wild Chair during a workshop at EnsadLab in Paris with students of the Media Lab’s High Low Tech Group. The brief was to design “rebellious chairs,” Karich tells us, under the jokey premise that chairs have been humans’ humble servants for too long. It’s time they rise up and escape from the shackles of our butts!

So Karich et al came up with the idea for a new “species of seating furniture”–one that is “solitary but social,” has “four legs and no tail,” and is “territorial,” yet lives in “very populated places on earth,” causing “significant conflicts with humans.”

But only if you don’t know how to approach the thing. The Wild Chair is rigged with an Arduino board, sensors, and a whole lot of wood quills on its seatback to behave exactly like a wild animal: Sneak up on it too quickly, and it detects your presence, launching into defense mode and raising its quills. “This is achieved thanks to a simple pulling mechanism powered by a strong servo motor,” Karich explains.

Sidle up to it, though, then caress the seatback and whisper softly to it, and the Wild Chair lowers its spikes. The mechanisms at work here are a capacitive sensor on the backrest made with a conductive fabric and a microphone near the chair that senses sound and gauges volume.

With enough coddling, the chair might even make for a semi-relaxing place to sit. But sitters shouldn’t get too comfy. “Remember,” Karich warns, “a wild chair will always be a WILD CHAIR.”

[Images courtesy of J.C. Karich; h/t Frame]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.