MIT Puts Bostonians in the Hot Seat

New tech recharges your body and your phone

The inventors of Soofa hang out on their bright idea. (Courtesy of Soofa)
Photo: Courtesy of Soofa soofa boston solar panels usb data cloud environment mit media lab changing environments benches solar benches

A team of MIT researchers is putting Boston residents in the hot seat.

Through a partnership with the mayor’s New Urban Mechanics office, MIT Media Lab’s Changing Environments firm is installing a collection of “Soofa” benches throughout the city. Benches are great places to recharge tired bodies, and Changing Environments is taking that idea one step further by fitting its benches with solar panels that can recharge up to two phones at once.

“We want to make cities updated for our generation,” said co-inventor Sandra Richter in a recent interview with Yahoo Tech. “One trait we have is we run around with our phones all the time, and they die every five minutes. So for us it’s really important to be charged up all the time and be connected to each other.”

The charging element is getting more attention than the team’s biggest innovation. In line with Media Lab objectives, the three women behind Soofa designed their “smart urban furniture” with sensors that upload environmental data to the team’s website. Those in need of a charge can use their last few minutes of battery life to surf to see which benches have free USB ports, as well as find out the relative air quality and noise pollution levels around each bench.

The benches will be installed during the next few days throughout central Boston and Cambridge; 10 are already up and running. The city is asking people to nominate an additional installation area, and the Soofa team is asking people to name each bench

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