Space10 counts AI as collaborator on Sofa in an Envelope prototype

Synthetic Intelligence acted as a “artistic collaborator” in a undertaking by IKEA’s analysis lab Space10 and design studio Panter & Tourron to reimagine the sofa as a light-weight and foldable seating design.

The ensuing prototype, known as Sofa in an Envelope, weighs lower than 10 kilograms and folds up right into a vacuum-sealed pouch much like an outsized purchasing bag that may be carried house by a single individual utilizing one hand.

The undertaking was born out of the goal to subvert expectations round couch design, which the studios noticed as limiting the product class to massive, cumbersome items.

The Sofa in an Envelope was designed to be mild and foldable

By conceiving of couches primarily for consolation, they felt designers have been additionally making the merchandise a burden.

Space10 and Panter & Tourron wished to create one thing extra sustainable, moveable, adaptable and sociable – and so they wished to problem synthetic intelligence (AI) to do the identical.

“This undertaking started as a technique to problem problematic design archetypes,” mentioned Space10 producer Georgina McDonald.

“Nevertheless beloved it’s, the sofa is usually a pressure on individuals owing to its weight, the planet attributable to its design intricacies and a burden on the buddies who generously assist us to maneuver.”

Renderings showing many different possible configurations for the Couch in an Envelope
The sofa might be tailored into many configurations

The studios labored with the AI programmes Midjourney and Runway, which generate photographs from pure language descriptions, in addition to the ChatGPT chatbot within the improvement of the sofa earlier than in the end turning it right into a bodily prototype.

McDonald initially experimented with utilizing ChatGPT to reply the immediate: “Might a sofa slot in an envelope”.

After discovering that the chatbot lacked the creativeness to suppose past inflexible definitions of “sofa” and “envelope”, she collaborated with Panter & Tourron to see whether or not AI could possibly be pushed to suppose exterior of the field.

Two sofas by Space10 on a green backdrop
A number of couches might be mixed to create a bigger floor

Panter & Tourron approached the undertaking via two intersecting routes – the primary utilizing their very own sketches and the second utilizing generative AI, primarily Runway, to provide you with photographs.

At first, they discovered the AI to be annoyingly restrictive – any use of the phrase “sofa” would at all times return the identical archetypical shapes they have been making an attempt to keep away from.

However by switching to different prompts corresponding to “platform”, “light-weight”, “sustainable”, “simple to maneuver” and “dialog pit”, the outcomes started to vary.

AI generated visualisations of a green couch that does not follow the conventions of a couch
An AI got here up with a whole lot of iterations of the design

Ultimately, the designers ended up utilizing a brand new characteristic launched through the undertaking that allowed them to coach their very own customized mannequin utilizing their renders because the dataset.

The AI would then generate variations on these photographs, the designers would iterate on prime of that and a collaborative cycle was created.

The ultimate design consists of a inexperienced seating system on a flat platform base with slim upholstered foam seating and modular and foldable “wings” that may function back- and armrests or a guide holder.

McDonald says AI acted as a “artistic collaborator” within the Sofa in an Envelope undertaking and a “visible guidelines” that allowed the studios to verify they’d thought of a variety of sitting positions, makes use of, kinds and extra.

Nevertheless, the know-how proved much less helpful when it got here to different elements corresponding to materials composition – though that performance could arrive sooner or later.

For instance, its responses to the immediate “sustainable” solely appear to be sustainable merchandise however could not really use extra sustainable supplies.

Right here, the undertaking’s human designers stepped in and selected an aluminium base, mycelium foam cushions and a cellulose-based 3D knit for the upholstery so the product could be utterly recyclable.

Rendering by Space10 showing many Couch in an Envelope packages stacked on top of a pallet for transportation
The slim and lightweight design would make transport extra sustainable

Following her expertise on Sofa in an Envelope, McDonald says she isn’t fascinated by letting AI design with out human intervention and thinks the worth of human designers is of their innate subjectivity.

“Why would a machine have any extra expertise?” she advised Dezeen. “A machine hasn’t sat on a sofa earlier than. It hasn’t cried on a sofa earlier than. It does not know what it looks like, so it might solely take us to this point on this explicit factor.”

“The machine is an accumulation of everybody’s emotions. And I do not suppose that the common of an accumulation needs to be the factor that dictates what is correct or true.”

Rendering of the packaging design for the Couch in an Envelope Project, showing one big white vacuum-sealed pouch with a rectangular shape inside it
The sofa is vacuum sealed in a pouch to hold house

The Sofa in an Envelope prototype was on present at Space10’s exhibition Design within the Age of AI on the 3 Days of Design pageant in Copenhagen. It’s a speculative undertaking and there are at present no plans to place the couch into manufacturing.

Space10 is a Copenhagen-based analysis and design lab that works with Swedish furnituremaker IKEA.

Whereas the studio is simply beginning to work with AI, its earlier idea designs embrace concepts for the way AI could possibly be included into furnishings and design together with in Updateables – a undertaking that imagines an app for upcycling drained furnishings.

3 Days of Design happened in venues round Copenhagen from 7 to 9 June 2023. See Dezeen Occasions Information for info, plus an inventory of different structure and design occasions happening world wide.

Illustration by Selina Yau


This text is a part of Dezeen’s AItopia collection, which explores the impression of synthetic intelligence (AI) on design, structure and humanity, each now and sooner or later.