Walk into work in the morning, and the new Autonomous Desk pops up to a standing position. Later, you can adjust it to take a sitting break, but if you sit for too many hours, the desk is going to remind you to stand up again. In the meantime, you can ask the AI-powered desk to order you lunch, set a couple of meetings, and adjust the temperature on your Nest Thermostat.
Part of the inspiration for the desk was the fact that sit-stand desks could do a better job of keeping users motivated. Most convertible desks rise up with the flip of a switch, but it’s fairly easy to stay seated, even if you’re fully convinced of the health risks of sitting all day at work. One study found that people with sit-stand desks only stood, on average, about two hours a day.
The desk comes with a pre-set training schedule. On the first day, it’ll ease you in with 30 minute standing sessions and long sit-down breaks. Each day, it’ll increase the standing time so users can gradually get used to it.
“You can think of the desk as a personal fitness trainer,” says Justin Lucas, founder of the Autonomous Desk.
Lucas argues that as standing desks proliferate, most furniture manufacturers are treating them like motorized versions of standard desks, and missing an understanding of how they’re actually used. “Traditional furniture manufacturers got the user experience all wrong,” he says. “They are so used to their old habits of building traditional furniture pieces. They didn’t think about how fundamentally people would use a standing desk. Unlike a dining table or a couch, which you don’t need to explain how to use, the standing desk is an entire new product category that needs to be rethought completely.”
The company spent time thinking about how users would know when to stand up and sit down, and how to encourage them to keep using the desk over decades of a career. They also looked at the minutiae of life at an office and added in features like a wireless charging pad for a phone, hooks to hold a backpack or purse, and software so the desk can double as a controller for smart gadgets like light bulbs or door locks. It also takes Siri-like voice commands, so it can set a reminder to pick up dry cleaning, start playing a playlist, or offer restaurant recommendations.
“You spend 8 to 10 hours a day at your desk,” Lucas says. “That’s a third of your day or your life. You’re so attached to your desk. What if we can turn the desk into a personal assistant who is always there and helping you out throughout the days with various tasks?”
We’ve seen a few of the features–like automatic reminders to stand–before. But the desk is also quite a bit cheaper than earlier sit-stand desks, most of which are in the $1,000-$4,000 range. At $399 on Kickstarter right now, it’s even cheaper than Ikea’s take on a convertible desk. It’s cheaper, the startup says, because they aren’t using distributors and retailers. “In traditional furniture retail, an office desk is usually marked up 4x by the time it reaches you,” says Lucas. “We streamline the supply chain–effectively eliminating all middlemen.”
The desk is offered on Kickstarter right now and will eventually retail for $499.