Solar Power Stations In Disguise: MIT’s Soft Rockers

There’s more than meets the eye to these amazing-looking pieces of garden furniture: They’re actually solar power stations.

Unveiled at MIT’s 150th Anniversary Festival of Art, Science and Technology, they’re the brainchild of Professor Sheila Kennedy and her team, who dubbed them “Soft Rockers”. The “rocker” part is self-explanatory, the “soft” one not so much so here we go: Not only are they made with MDF softwood planks, they also represent somewhat of a statement against “hard urban infrastructure.”

Sheila and her collaborators took note of a dilemma existing within the bulding industry nowadays: The parts available for construction are almost entirely mass reproducible, but at the same time there’s a growing need for each new item made to adjust its form to its performance. In other words, we demand uniqueness and specificity of things that have been serially manufactured. The Soft Rocker constitutes itself as one possible answer to the conflict. Its leaf-like loop form “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 chairs were installed at Killian Court, in the MIT campus. They’re capable of creating an interactive 1.5 axis 35 watt solar tracking system by taking into account human power of balance. That is to say, whenever someone climbs into one of these babies, their body weight is detected by the rocker, and it adjusts its tilt accordingly so as to better face the sun and collect solar energy. The energy is stored by soft power electronics (hey, yet another reason behind the “Soft” monicker), which also charge the rocker’s 12 ampere-hour battery.

If the whole physics aspect of the project isn’t your cup of tea, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: Its practicality. A USB platform installed on each chair allows the occupant to take advantage of the harvested energy and recharge or run their cell phone, mp3 player, speakers, etc. At night, an electroluminescent lighting setting takes the rockers straight to TRON-land. This isn’t necessarily practical but it’s unbelievably cool.

Check out these other solar power-related articles: Solar Power Media Player, KPV: A Solar Powered Vehicle That Fits In Your Suitcase and Solar Powered Portable Speakers Design.

Via: Core 77