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Computer-integrated furniture is just around the corner

January 1, 2005

in All Articles,Culture,Miscellaneous

Sit down on a couch, and swing the monitor towards you. Open the couch arm, insert a CD, and listen to music as you browse the Web. Use this “couch-computer” to watch a DVD: A hidden projector plays video on a recessed, ceiling-mounted projection screen.

Need another computer? Sit down next to a stylish end table. Then open the top drawer and flip up the flat monitor tucked neatly inside. From the next drawer, get out the wireless keyboard and mouse.

Kick back and watch TV on your large plasma screen. Also use it to browse the Web, edit documents and play video games, because the entertainment center has an integrated computer.

The best part about this dream sequence? It’s real. This better living through technology is courtesy Pete Freeman, from Allendale, Michigan. Going beyond “furniture”, Freeman has foreseen, designed and built the next stage in home design. Turn your furniture and rooms into invisible, integrated technology centers.

It’s “invisible” because most of the technology is hidden: You don’t see it until you need it. “Integrated” means the technology isn’t in the way – it’s a part of your room, incorporated into furniture, walls and ceiling. A “technology center” means there are no limits. Not just computers, we’re talking about entertainment centers, projectors, and the monitors, speakers and interfaces and other required hardware.

“This has always been something that’s intrigued me, and is just a part of my life,” Freeman said. “People come in here, and I say, yeah, I’ve got three computers in the living room.” A fun game is trying to find them!

Freeman is the inventor, designer and builder of high-tech customized furniture. A fabrication engineer by day, he’s spent his own time and money developing what he sees as the next big thing in home technology.

“It gets back to the idea that theaters [must be] some big fancy room. But this is our living room,” Freeman said. “When the theater goes away, it tucks neatly into the walls. It’s not obtrusive, it can still just be a living room.”

The same goes for his computer-integrated side-table. When not in use, the end table is just a classy bit of furniture. But five seconds transforms it into a fully-functioning computer.

The advantage is having accessible technology for when it’s needed, and hide it for when it’s not. Not just “putting your toys away”, this is a big redesign of furniture and entertainment centers.

But Freeman is frustrated with marketing his technology-integrated furniture. Even with patents and trademarks, selling such innovation is difficult. He must protect his ideas while still sharing with large companies who can best produce and distribute his creations. Talking with several computer, electronics and furniture manufacturers has shown him “I’m a tech guy, not a business guy… We just don’t know who to turn to to be able to do this kind of thing… And [right now] all we have is a really cool living room.”

Freeman’s accomplishments are impressive, and I’m not just referring to his tech-furniture creations. Step back from these, and look at the mindset it took to get there. Freeman is one of those few people with the gift of not seeing the world as presented, and is not satisfied with what’s commercially available. With this mindset, he shapes complex dreams into reality.

The eagerness and drive to build, create, and improve the world isn’t something we should trust to Generic Company, Inc. Changing the world starts with the individual, and Pete Freeman is way ahead of the game.

See the full interview with Pete Freeman, including pictures of his computer-integrated furniture.

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