In 2018, Ikea announced plans to 3D print your butt–well, to 3D print a chair to the shape of your butt in a partnership between educational esports group Area Academy and the 3D-printing company Unyq.
For now, the chair is still just a concept, but Ikea and Unyq have just announced a trio of new ergonomic products geared toward the 2.2 billion gamers worldwide playing an estimated 14 billion hours of video games every week in the more than $130 billion video gaming industry.
Due in 2020, and only available through an upcoming Ikea/Unyq smartphone app (which is different from Ikea’s own upcoming app), they look nothing like the Scandinavian minimalism we know Ikea for. Instead they are highly industrial, gridded black structures that look born from an AutoCAD program. The twist is that the design is personalized to your body.
The first product is a biometric wrist support, or what is essentially a cuff that sits on your desk. You slide your hand through and it will keep your wrist at the correct height in relationship to your keyboard to prevent injury. The second is a set of vented keycaps that sit atop your keyboard and promise to “make the keyboard feel like a physical extension of a gamers’ fingers.” And finally there’s what is described as a mouse “bungee.” It looks like a small desk lamp, but there’s no light. Instead, it holds your mouse cord in place on a tether to avoid tangling and other mishaps in the heat of esports battle.
None of these products is really new in the broader category of esports gear. Wrist supports, keyboard key replacements, and mouse bungees are all well-trodden turf for PC accessory manufacturers. Ikea and Unyq’s cuff design is unique as it wraps around a wrist, while most supports are gel pads that simply sit underneath, but otherwise, this is pretty low-hanging fruit.
The differentiator is that it’s customizable. A wrist rest from Logitech, Razer, or Belkin is a one-size-fits all accessory. Ikea and Unyq are promising to manufacture gaming gear specifically to the specs of your body. The smartphone app will actually use the phone’s camera to scan your hand and wrist for its cuff. Meanwhile, the bungee and keyboard keys will have all sorts of personalization options within the app including their slant, softness, and texture.
Personalizing gaming accessories are a good place for Ikea and Unyq to start. Why? Gamers are notorious early adopters, seeking out the latest technologies to get an edge or enhance their play experience. And for Ikea, it’s much easier to 3D print a small cuff shaped to your wrist than a large chair shaped to your butt.
This project is only the beginning of a longer collaboration between Ikea and Unyq, which will go beyond video games. Figuring out how to scan bodies and personalize products is a design challenge worthy of Ikea’s attention. Because if Ikea can figure out how to scale the fit and production of highly bespoke ergonomic products to the globe, it could change the nature of not just gaming, but interior design as we know it.