This post will explore the world of pods and its implications for and beyond coliving.
It was a week back that I discovered (through a documentary) sleeping pods in night trains. At the same time, my friend Jeremiah who founded one of the world’s first pod-enabled coliving spaces UPst(art) announced the launch of medical and shelter pods.
So I googled “sleeping pods” and discovered a whole world.
Airports are packing them up while pods were used for staff during the 2012 London Olympics and Saudi Arabia is investing into temporary shelter pods for the 2.3 million yearly Hajj pilgrims (which looks very similar to the funky pods in Tokyo)
Airbus has patendent a sleeping pod system for planes sophisticated to the point that it relies the pods being padded with grip rails and airbags in case of turbulence (including camera inside each pod). It’s not out yet and the company announced a more simple version of sleeping compartments directly tied to the plane (launch date was 2020 but due to the current airline industry outlook, innovation might be stalled for another couple of years). In the meanwhile, Air New Zealand revealed Skynest, their economy sleeping pods for long-term flight travelers.
Nap pods are already rather common at tech companies such as Google, known for letting its employees sleep at work. Mobile sleeping pods such as the one in Abu Dhabi airport offer visual and sound isolation in public spaces and can be easily implemented in work environments.
My initial stance was that visual and auditory isolation is a prerequisite to create the feeling of intimacy. It is a frustrating experience to not be isolated in a pod that is designed for it. At the same time, certain coliving operators experienced that the absence of privacy led to more respect, tolerance, and less destructive behavior (drug consumption, public masturbation, to name but a few). Choosing in favor or against privacy therefore depends on the operator’s intended outcome and target audience. In short, it depends on whether trust can be created from the beginning - or whether autonomy needs to be controlled by the collective itself.
From Kara and Nate (youtubers) who paid $56 to sleep in a capsule hotel in the Bangkok airport
during a 15 hour layover (watch their vlog on Youtube).
The immediate application can be to fight the COVID-19 situation. One example is Jeremiah Adler’s new company Agile Medical Systems, which develops negative pressure medial pods. At the same time, another company spinoff towards temporary shelter pods could be a solution to house the temporary homeless - knowing that around 50% of the US homeless population is only “temporary homeless” with an average of 6-12 months of enduring homelessness (stat from 2010). Low-tech pods such as seen on Dezeen have already been used in London after having been made intentionally open-source by its architects. Figuring out an affordable production cost would make it available to refugee camps and enable refugees a more stable home environment than current disposable tent solutions.
The economic advantages of pods are priceless: while normal residences spend an average of 20m² per resident, hostels 8-10m², while pods go down to 2m² (with an average of 2.5m²) and require half the height of traditional accommodation options. Pods can therefore be implemented in any environment that voluntarily accepts this lifestyle (such as coliving spaces or religious communities) or which it is imposed upon (military camps or hospitals).
We are going to witness innovation to tackle different areas, among others: how to overcome the challenge of complete isolation (such as through the use of while noise); how to increase the feeling of space (such as through innovation in darkable glass or extendable bed to the outside) - currently, one great getaround is using a mirror within the pod to create a feeling of spatial depth; and how to offer more practical and optimized storage capacities. Advances will also be made on the technological side - finding ways of seamless experience control (via voice or touch pads) and running on unnoticeable technology (such as zero-noise air conditioners). And in terms of market share, there also will be innovation into the luxury class of pods and higher-end services - for example large-sized beds with 1.5m ceiling heights and Michelin-star Japanese-style hospitality.
We need to think long-term and ask ourselves how to create pods in which residents could live long-term - this approach would lead us to increasingly create pods that are adapted to enhance our human well-being (adding to current solutions such as adaptation of light and in-cabin plants). A few years from now, the pod ecosystem will have grown with its own industry organizations and international fairs, pod hotels will be the trending real estate topic, and innovation in pods will make the experience smoothless for high-end pods while affordable mass-market pods will have their first serious group of distributors.
About the author: Gui Perdrix is the founder of Coliving Diaries and Vice-President of Co-Liv.
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