Office Chairs Can Park Themselves – but Not Autonomously

You may never get scolded again for not tucking in your chair, thanks to Nissan.

Technology has yet again been put to great use.

If you’ve ever had trouble with people forgetting to push in their chairs after leaving a meeting room, Nissan might just have something for you.

It’s the “Intelligent Parking Chair,” an office chair that parks itself.


A Self-Parking Chair?

In the video, a rather comfortable-looking set of office chairs—mounted on what really could be a Roomba—sit in random arrangement. When a human claps his or her hands, the chairs all scoot into position.

These chairs are the product of Nissan Motor Co Ltd. The company has been developing the chairs as a promotional project for and with inspiration from the “Intelligent Park Assist” feature in its vehicles.

In fact, the press release even says that the chairs were designed “using this new technology already adopted in the X-Trail Hybrid and other Nissan vehicles.” While the tech might be similar, it is definitely not the same—otherwise, your car would be limited to your garage.


How the Self-Parking Chairs Work

Self-parking cars and the self-parking chair use a similar principle to get themselves where they want to be: motion detectors tell a program where the vehicle is so that the program can direct the vehicle’s movements.

How does it work?

  • A diagram of the

    A diagram of the “self-parking” chairs’ network. (Image courtesy of Nissan.)

    The user programs the layout of the chairs (say, arranged around a boardroom table) beforehand.

  • When the chairs are displaced, the motion detector cameras identify the chairs’ locations and relay this information to a program.
  • This program then communicates over WiFi to tell the chairs how they need to move to return to their original positions.


Chairs and Cars: Not the Same “Intelligent Park Assist” Technology

A car uses a series of sensors to detect its location and inform itself. In a car, these aspects are all completely integrated. They’re part of the car. They make the car smart, so it can do what it needs to without a second thought. This is what will take us to autonomous vehicles someday.

“Intelligent” self-parking chairs: they’re cool, but not as smart as they sound. (Image courtesy of Nissan.)

The chairs are a mimicry of this intelligence through motor animation. Everything that makes them smart is entirely external. The “sensors” are motion detector cameras, which if anything make the room smart. The directional information comes to the chairs from a software program housed on an external computer.

As useful as it would be to have chairs that can move themselves around, we’re probably still a while away from this:

(“The Nude Bomb,” a Get Smart film, is owned by Universal Pictures.)

Follow Erin Green on Twitter.