Facebook PixelMagnetic floor to enable self-rearranging furniture
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Magnetic floor to enable self-rearranging furniture

Image credit: Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

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Povilas S
Povilas S Jul 04, 2021
The background:

One of the ways to refresh your state of mind and lighten up the repetitive mundane feeling is to change your surroundings. It's good to go out often and visit various (preferably new) places or even go abroad if the circumstances allow, but if you happen to spend a lot of time at home, it helps if you change the interior of your living space and one of the simplest ways in which you can do that is to rearrange furniture.

However, doing this often manually is still too much of a hassle, so it would be super cool if the furniture could rearrange itself. Then people could refresh their home's interior every day or even a few times per day if they wanted, try new possible combinations and get back to more convenient options whenever they felt like. An app could be paired with such a system and all you needed to do would be to place different pieces of furniture in the desired manner in a digital representation of your home space on a touchscreen of your device, the app could also suggest options for you if you ran out of creativity. But how to achieve the rearranging part?

The first thing I thought about was that furniture could move on small rail-like tracks, but this limits the possibilities for moving in all directions and also adds unwanted elements in the floor. A bit better option would be to use tiny wheels attached underneath each item, but this is complicated because such wheels would have to become fixed (preferably hidden and replaced by stable legs or a flat surface) after the furniture was moved and each item would need to have a separate mechanized system installed in it to do the job. While researching related ideas I've found one company doing something a bit along those lines, but it's more about self-folding/unfolding pieces of furniture with predefined movement positions.

The solution:

Using a magnetic floor and a layer of magnetic material attached underneath each item of furniture seems like a viable option. The floor surface would need to be smooth and even enough (without carpets, etc.) and a thin layer of soft material would be additionally attached on top of the magnetic layer underneath each item in order not to scratch the floor by friction. The floor could be made entirely from a specialized material capable of effectively transferring the magnetic field. The field would be turned on only when necessary on a specific location of the floor and moved around to drag a specific item (or few at once) along.

Alternatively, such an interactive magnetic floor layer could potentially be installed under any type of floor, given the magnetic field it generates would be strong enough to penetrate the surface materials (eg. laminate flooring) and still be able to move heavy items of furniture. If such systems became popular enough, new furniture could even be made "magnetic floor compatible", meaning it would have a magnetic layer installed during manufacturing allowing to move it on such floor. Alternatively, separate adjustable magnetic pieces of various sizes and strength could be sold to fit various types of furniture items and the users could attach those themselves.

Here's the envisioned domestic scenario: when the person wants to rearrange furniture, they prepare the floor by removing unnecessary items that might obstruct the movement, then set the desired furniture combination on a designated app and leave the room for the system to do the job. Perhaps a safety feature prescanning the room for people and animals, before any movement starts, should be installed.

Drawbacks:

The main obstacle to this idea that I see is that moving heavy items of furniture requires strong magnetic fields which in turn requires strong electromagnets or even superconducting magnets and might require additional cooling systems. The excess heat generated by the working of ordinary electromagnets could potentially be used for floor heating, but anyway, the cost of such a system might be too high and not justify its purpose. Installation of the system might also require a lot of room under the floor.

Is there a way to simplify the system and make it more cost-efficient? What other technical methods (instead of a magnetic field) could be employed to serve the same purpose?






6
Creative contributions

Klotski puzzle floor

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Spook Louw
Spook Louw Jul 05, 2021
Perhaps, if the floor could be designed in slidable panels, similar to that of a sliding puzzle, it could be easier to rearrange the panels of the floor rather than the furniture on it?


Imagine that puzzle to be the floor, each panel could then be moved to a different location as you please, it shouldn't be difficult to design a floor like that. What would be more challenging is mechanising it for even more convenience. If you were to move the panels via an app, for instance, it would be perfect.

The one problem with this idea is that there needs to be a panel missing in order to allow the others to move, but that might not be too difficult to solve, you can simply have a removable panel that needs to be picked up every time you want to move the floor around.

This solution does restrict your rearrangement a bit, but I think it could still be effective.

[1]https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.partypalooza.com%2Fproduct%2FSFSlide.htm&psig=AOvVaw1xeSsNDXWW2_uFfTq7q13y&ust=1625574709674000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAoQjRxqFwoTCNim3PP3y_ECFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD

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Povilas S
Povilas S2 months ago
Good idea. I think in practice this could get complicated because each separate item of furniture should be able to fit on a single panel of such puzzle floor (I mean that's your idea right, to move the furniture by moving the panels on which it stands?), so some panels would have to be very big (like a bed or a wardrobe) and some small like a chair. Or alternatively, all the panels would have to be equally big (as big as the biggest piece of furniture), so it might get too unpractical to move such a puzzle around.

On second thought - maybe a floor could be made of many small puzzle pieces, but then you could somehow "define" the border of a larger puzzle piece which is made of many small pieces, and move that larger piece so that after all you would be able to move a piece of your chosen size, but I'm not sure if this wouldn't complicate things, even more, when it comes to moving the puzzle. For manual movement, it might be too complicated, but if a program could pre-solve the puzzle according to how you want the final rearrangement to look, and then the mechanized system would move pieces of a specific defined size in a specific manner, it might work.

Anyway, your suggestion is a viable alternative I didn't even think of:)

Use this technology in film studios and wedding/ other event places

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Jul 05, 2021
Film studios and halls that host large events (weddings, etc.) can use this magnetic floor to move around the furniture. These places require different furniture arrangements almost every day. As simple as arranging chairs at a wedding and then taking them out is a regular task. This should be easier with the magnetic floor. Also, such big event places can justify and bear the cost of such a floor.
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Povilas S
Povilas S2 months ago
Great suggestion, perhaps there are more places like that with the commercial-scale need to move heavy things around on the floor. This could start as a system intended for use in such commercial settings, to justify the initial price and later be developed into a smaller, more compact version for home use. During the commercial use period, it could be marketed as a "to be" home product and attract potential customers and investors for further development. It would be a good marketing setting having in mind that the events you mentioned routinely host masses of people, so it would be an opportunity for people to get familiar with the system that way:)

A bed that moves in all directions

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Povilas S
Povilas S Jul 05, 2021
This is a related idea. I've noticed that especially when it comes to sleeping, changing positions (which side your head is facing, etc.) and being able to sleep in different places helps to fall asleep quicker and sleep better. The perfect bed to allow as many different sleeping possibilities as possible, regarding orientation in space, would have to be:
  1. Round (so that you would be able to easily orient your head towards whichever side you want to)
  2. Able to spin 360 degrees upon activation (automatically orients you, plus fun)
  3. Able to lift itself up and down (changing vertical position would also be very cool, especially in places with high ceiling, there's something magical about sleeping on a mezzanine, kids love it, but adults too, such a function would enable to do it without mezzanine even existing and also be able to simply lift you down whenever you wanted to go to the bathroom or take something from the fridge)
  4. Able to freely move around the room (this is where magnetic floor is really handy because the bed would be able to "park" itself in any position since other items of furniture would simply give way by moving aside and rearranging themselves)
  5. Able to lift any side of it up and down at a slight angle (this is to give a possibility to raise one's head and torso slightly in contrast to legs (and vice versa) which might sometimes and by some be desired)
While round beds able to turn around, like this one, already exist, I doubt there is a bed that can lift itself up and down, not to mention ride around the room. Also, the roundness and spinning function is regarded as features of excessive luxury (the bed in the link costs 313,000 $) while making a round bed that automatically turns only requires a simple mechanism, it wouldn't be too difficult to make one yourself. The lifting mechanism is more complicated and an automatic furniture rearranging system (either magnetic or other) is a final element required to enable movement in all directions.

People are more important than furniture

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MC
Michelle Christine Jul 11, 2021
How are any adverse effects on actual people (not just electronics) measured and addresse?
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Povilas S
Povilas S2 months ago
Hi Michelle Christine. It's an important issue to raise, indeed. I'm not a specialist on this, but there's certainly a way to measure, cause it's important for people who work in environments where they are exposed to strong magnetic fields, patients undergoing MRI testing, etc. I addressed this issue generally in a reply to Spook Louw's comment at the very bottom of the page, which you probably read. The main form of data is most likely statistical - meaning the correlations between the health of individuals who have been exposed to magnetic fields of a certain strength for a certain time and all the latter factors (time, strength of the field, frequency of exposure, etc.) are determined.

The specifics of this would be important if such a magnetic field-based furniture rearranging system was actually developed. At this theoretical stage, it's a rather secondary topic, but maybe I'll try to dig for more specific information about this and try to evaluate whether the magnetic fields required to move the furniture could cause health problems for people even if they are at the certain distance (in another room) while the furniture is being rearranged by the automated system. I'd let you know then.

However, I'm pretty confident that being at a certain distance from the magnets the risk will be very small to none since the strength of a magnetic field decreases greatly with distance. The fact that passengers are allowed to travel inside maglev trains that use extremely strong magnetic fields is also reassuring in this regard.

Using a motor to pull the pieces of furniture

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Samuel Bello
Samuel Bello Aug 30, 2021
If by magnetic floors, you mean the floor will be able to generate magnetic fields on all parts, it may be more efficient to have an electric motor that can be attached to different parts of the room.

The motors will have ropes that can be used to pull the pieces of furniture towards them. That way there is less cost and the machinery used to move the furniture around will occupy less space too. The only relative disadvantage is that the system will not be fully automated and the user will have to change the position of the motors manually.
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Povilas S
Povilas S18 days ago
I'm not sure if I understand exactly what kind of system do you have in mind, but from what I understand it seems that it would be pretty inconvenient because you'd have to attach one end of the rope to the motor and the other end to a certain piece of furniture, then the motor could only move that item towards it in a straight line?

So it would be a lot of hassle moving motor(s) around and attaching ropes to them, then dragging separate pieces of furniture one by one for a specific distance. The motor(s) would also have to be stored somewhere and I imagine they won't be light. So it seems almost easier to move the furniture manually instead.

The convenience of a system described in this idea is that it would be fully automatic, you would only need to set the desired combination of furniture in a dedicated app and leave the room, the system would do everything by itself. You could change the combination as often as you want effortlessly.

Retractable furniture can be built along with the house or installed later

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Samuel Bello
Samuel Bello Aug 31, 2021
The furniture framework can be built along with the house so that the house will have parts that can be pulled out of the house's floor or walls to make up the furniture shapes. The retractable furniture parts will have to be modular so that any piece of furniture can be constructed from the set of retractable parts. After the modular parts have been pulled out to match the desired piece of furniture's shape, the relevant parts of the furniture can now be covered with cushion pads.

Instead of moving furniture parts around, we make sure the furniture can be constructed anywhere in the house.
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Povilas S
Povilas S18 days ago
I see the point, but I think such system would be even more complicated and expensive than magnetic floor one:)
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Samuel Bello
Samuel Bello16 days ago
Povilas S
The reason it will not be more complex than the proposed magnetic floors is that the system can be purely mechanical. Each piece can be pulled out of the floor just like a drawer can be opened. The whole floor will be like a grid of drawers that can be pulled to form the shape of the desired piece of furniture.

The idea of using magnetic floors will probably involve electromagnets that can be turned on to attract the magnetic base of the furniture. Such a magnetic floor will cost more than the proposed furniture system because its realization will require more expensive materials and the magnetic floor system will have to be electrically powered.
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Povilas S
Povilas S11 days ago
Samuel Bello Pulled out from the floor? I got confused now what kind of system do you envision. Do you mean that all the parts required to make a piece of furniture would be hidden beneath the floor or behind walls and pulled out manually like constructor pieces? This sounds like a very complicated way to go about it for me. I mean maybe if you just wanted to hide certain items of furniture that reside in fixed places, but how would this make it easier to move them around? I just have a lot of questions trying to imagine this, like how would they hide inside walls/floor, on what would they move around, etc.?

Also, even if such a system would work, constructing furniture from moving/detaching parts would only enable to build a certain limited set of furniture. You'd have to live with that for as long as the house stands basically, or to replace all the system if you wanted to change the furniture, while in the case of magnetic floor you could simply buy new "magnetic floor compatible" furniture and replace the old items anytime you wish.

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General comments

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Spook Louw
Spook Louw16 days ago
Perhaps another way to approach this would be to give every large piece of furniture retractable wheels. It might sound extreme to replace/alter all furniture, but I'm sure it won't cost more than replacing the floor.
It could be difficult to automate such a system, but it also wouldn't be impossible. You would essentially turn your sofa into an RC vehicle. If you configure the system to the area of the floor, you should be able to run everything remotely.
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Povilas S
Povilas S11 days ago
Spook Louw Yes, this is one of the options I reviewed in the idea description. I'm not sure if it would be more simple/cheap. In the case of a magnetic floor, constructing the magnetic system under the floor would be the most complicated/expensive part, but from there it's easy - you'd only need to attach a layer of ferromagnetic material under any item of furniture. Therefore you could introduce new items/replace old ones easily.

In the case of a "wheel system" in order to add new items of furniture and make them movable, they'd have to be either produced that way in the factory or you'd have to install the motor and a specialized software into an otherwise ordinary piece of furniture, this is way more complicated than just attaching a ferromagnetic layer on any item of furniture.

When using wheels, each item would have to have a separate motorized system with a "smart chip" able to connect with other pieces of furniture and navigate between them. So in principle, each item would have its own motoric system, but additionally, all the items would have to be managed by another, general system to rearrange them in space according to the user's wish.


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Spook Louw
Spook Louw2 months ago
I really like the idea, one thing I think might become a problem is that electronics may be affected by such a large magnetic field.

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Povilas S
Povilas S2 months ago
Spook Louw Good point. I was thinking more about human health because strong magnetic fields are known to affect it (https://www.sciencefocus.com/science/how-strong-does-a-magnetic-field-have-to-be-to-affect-the-human-body/), but the latter wouldn't be a problem if the person left the room before the system starts operating and returned only afterwards (this would be required as an obligatory safety feature anyway since moving furniture can bump into you). But additionally, I think even the strongest magnetic fields can reach rather short distances, or maybe it's more fair to say that their strength weakens greatly with increasing distance.

One good example is maglev trains (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maglev) - magnetic fields are so strong there that they can lift the whole train and not only drag it along but keep it levitating, that's about the strongest you can get and still those are passenger trains, meaning the people inside are not immersed in that magnetic field somehow (also the whole electronics inside the train), because if they were that would definitely be harmful to their health, so I'm guessing this is because those fields are only active upon very close distances (the very bottom of the train).

So I think even if you'd lay in bed which was being dragged by a magnetic field, the field reaching your body would be at least two times weaker than the field at the very bottom of the bed which drags it. Of course, this is all guessings and we would need to do exact calculations to find out.

But where I'm heading with this is that when it comes to electronics, similar would be true - first, if the electronics were turned off, this would greatly reduce the possibility of harming it, because magnetic fields affect charged particles that move inside the field (the same is true for the human body that's why a patient's body is fixed inside an MRI scanner), so then it could only interact with static elements of the device - magnets, metallic parts and yes that probably still can damage it, but if such devices were stably fixed somewhere above the floor (and this would have to be the case before the furniture starts moving in order not to drop them) the magnetic field reaching them (if any) would be less strong. In the worst-case scenario, all the electronic devices would have to be moved outside of the room.


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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni2 months ago
I like the idea. Another drawback I could think of is that using this technology will require expertise. This will add to the cost of the system since the owner might need to call someone every time they want to move the furniture around. I am assuming that heavier things will require more energy and not so much for the lighter ones. The user will then have to modulate the energy to match the weight of the object before moving it. An energy requirement mismatch may ruin either the object or the magnetic system. This will be a problem when the system is installed in individual homes. Large event places can train their staff to use the system since they need to use it frequently.