In this age of multitasking, it seemed a little retrograde to New Zealand — based designer Grier Govorko that a bed should be just a place to sleep. Govorko, who is best known for his concert sets for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, wondered whether a bed could be as productive as a home office or offer a multimedia experience to rival a home theater. "Working in the music business, and being on tour for years, I was constantly in hotel rooms where I was always working from bed," he explains. "It's an underutilized space that hadn't really been looked at." And so he developed the Somnus-Neu — Somnus is the Roman god of sleep, and neu is German for "new" — which he calls "the world's most advanced bed."
Working with Auckland University of Technology's Business Innovation Centre, Govorko created the Somnus-Neu to be a media-rich oasis. A freestanding unit with motorized curtains and a retractable video screen, the bed has Wi-Fi, a docking station for electronics, a five-point audio system, and three zones of LED lighting — reading, ambient, and floor — all of which can be controlled by dual 17-inch touch-screen panels on either side of the bed.
The bed can be equipped with an RFID card reader. Govorko envisions a global network of Somnus-Neu beds in airport lounges and hotels that will offer a personalized experience for repeat customers, no matter where they travel. When a card-carrying member encounters one of the beds, it will immediately recognize that person and load a stored set of preferences, from favorite audio and video channels to light levels.
Govorko says he's in discussions with Yotel, the U.K.-based pod hotel chain, and expects the first beds will welcome weary travelers by the second half of 2010. Once production is under way, he also plans to target less conventional markets, such as hospitals. "Having been a patient, on and off, from silly motorcycle accidents over the years, I know that the hospital experience is lacking," he says. "Staring at the ceiling is not the greatest way to spend your time."
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A version of this article appeared in the November 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.