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ALMHULT, Sweden, June 4 (Reuters) - IKEA has teamed up with U.S startup Ori for the development of a robotic piece of furniture aimed at helping people make more efficient use of tiny living spaces.
The world's biggest furniture brand unveiled on Tuesday the moving room divider that, depending on needs throughout the day, doubles as bed, walk-in closet or sofa, or frees up a separate work space.
A commercial launch is set for 2020, in densely populated Hong Kong and Japan to begin with, the company said.
"With robotics, you transform space, especially for those who live in extremely small spaces. It's a need that they have and why not use the technology that's out there," Seana Strawn, product developer for innovations at the furniture group's range development leg IKEA of Sweden.
Strawn said in an interview that IKEA had been working with Ori on the product, which is operated through a touchpad, for two years.
The piece is built on a robotic platform developed by Ori, which already sells shape-shifting furniture in the United States under its own brand and which is eying a broader customer base through IKEA's budget-price strategy and global footprint.
"This is technology, robotics and design coming together to solve a problem that needs to be solved: As living spaces become smaller and smaller we can't keep using all the same furniture we've been using for many years," Ori CEO Hasier Larrea said.
"We need to think of a new generation of furniture. You can almost call it furniture with superpowers," he told Reuters.
(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom Editing by Leslie Adler)