Relax and Recharge: Lounge Chair With Solar Panels Lets You Do Both

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailHere’s a fun idea for a Friday: solar charging stations disguised as outdoor rocking lounge furniture.  

MIT students developed SOFT Rockers, smart, clean-energy charging stations disguised as outdoor rocking lounge furniture that let campus visitors recharge their electronic devices while they relax. The SOFT Rocker uses the human power of balance to create an interactive 1.5 axis 35-watt solar tracking system that charges a 12 ampere-hour battery and stores solar energy harvested during the day. An interactive, real time energy-harvesting feedback loop senses how users orient the rockers to the sun, allowing them to move it for maximum solar gain.

To create the rockers, the MIT team molded softwood panels into a continuous loop that holds the solar panel on the top. Users simply adjust the tilt of the solar tracking system, plug in their device, and start recharging. “The SOFT Rocker combines high-tech and low-tech design strategies: it produces electricity but engages the body and works like furniture,” says MIT professor Sheila Kennedy, who headed the Soft Rocker team. “The SOFT Rocker blurs distinctions between pleasure and work and recasts power generation as an integrated and distributed public activity rather than a centralized, singular off-site project of ‘engineering.’”

How cool would it be to see these dotting our outdoor malls and parks, providing clean juice and relaxation for outlet-hunting cyborgs everywhere?

soft rockers 

Users sit inside the lounge chair's loop, under the solar panel, and use their own balance to adjust the solar tracking system's tilt. Photo courtesy of MIT