Flatpack furniture is efficient to manufacture and inexpensive to transport, but it can also be a real hassle to put together. A collaboration between MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab and Milan design firm Wood-Skin promises to make life easier in this regard with the Programmable Table: a small prototype table that can be easily moved from flatpack state to furniture, and back again, with a quick tug.

Unveiled at the Fuori Salone del Mobile in Milan, the Programmable Table is still in the prototype stage, and we've no word yet on when – or even if – we can expect to buy it in stores.

Straight out of the box, it can reportedly be manipulated from flatpack form to a table by pulling it into shape, and it can also go back into flatpack state just as easily too, which would surely make moving house a lot easier. Wired states that once assembled, the small table is strong enough for a grown man to stand on.

The process by which the table pops-up is based on Wood-Skin's existing technology which is used for interior design and architectural purposes. This consists of a textile sandwiched between two rigid material layers, in this case wood. The wood is then milled into complex patterns and the textile beneath allows it to bend into the required shape without losing its rigidity. Put simply, MIT's Self-Assembly lab added elasticity to the process with its own self-developed smart textile material, thus making the popping-up into shape an automatic and seamless process.

Theoretically, a small table could be just the tip of the iceberg for the collaboration, and if the design works well enough, one could easily imagine the same technology scaled-up to work with other kinds of flatpack furniture. On this note, Wood-Skin Creative Director Giulio Masotti told Gizmag that the team plans to work together on additional ideas soon.

Check out the video below to see it in use.

View gallery - 5 images