A £20 000 Lounge Chair That’s Like a Flotation Tank
WIRED has tried out a new chair that claims to simulate weightlessness – one that will also set you back a mere £20,000 should you wish to enjoy this experience at home.
The Elysium chair has been created on the back of 10 years of bioengineering research by British designer Dr David Wickett, and – after only a little practice – can be tasked with moving back and forth using only hand gestures or, once experienced, even the subtlest of muscle tensions that make it look as if the chair is moving of its own accord.
Wickett’s patented frictionless balancing technology, which controls the movement of the Elysium chair, is derived from a mathematical model written by its creator. Six roller bearings in mechanisms housed in the arms of the chair and one linear bearing supposedly result in frictionless continuous balance.
As the chair rotates through 50 degrees, at the halfway point the body passes through a point where pressure is evenly distributed and shear – the effect of gravity of the skeleton – approaches zero. The effect for WIRED was unlike any seat we’d ever been in. The closest way to describe being in the Elysium once it tilts back is, as suggested by its inventor, something akin to a flotation tank.
Based in Cambridge, the company will fashion a limited edition run of 20 chairs assembled by hand. The Elysium’s carbon-fibre skeleton and milled aluminium mechanisms are predominately covered by stitched leatherwork finished by the same people who have worked on Lotus upholstery.
Through Wickett’s background working with a medical seating company, he also states that due to the chair’s unique construction and abilities, health benefits may be derived just from using it. He cites that circulation improves as gravity helps blood return from the lower legs; support to the pelvis aligns joints in the lower spine; back muscle activity reduces; and intervertebral discs rehydrate and open the spine.
WIRED cannot, of course, confirm any of these claims after a short demonstration, but it was indeed exceedingly comfortable. And so it should be for £20k.
WIRED managed after only a few minutes and some instruction from Dr Wickett to control the chair without any arm movements at all. Due to that frictionless mechanism, all WIRED had to do was tense stomach muscles to recline, while the slightest lift of the head brought the 32kg chair back to an upright position. Should none of this balancing act be of interest, you can simply lock the chair in any position rather than have continuous free motion.
As is often the case with luxury items such as this, buyers are able to select from some 70 colour options for their own Elysium, creating in effect a bespoke chair should the prototype featured here not match their own aesthetic tastes. Of course, once paying the bill, WIRED expects the very thing they are going to need is a sit-down.