Famed Designer of Maximillian Chair to Launch Super-Smart IoT Shading System at CES 2017

Industrial designer Armen Sevada Gharabegian to launch ShadeCraft Sunflower at CES 2017; Patent application reveals automated, motorized outdoor shading systems that can move with the sun, play music, even perform facial recognition for security and personalized comfort.


Armen Sevada Gharabegian is a famed industrial designer and developer of the iconic $25,000 Maximillian Chair. At CES 2017 he will launch ShadeCraft, which promises to “revolutionize the way consumers live outdoors.” The first product from the company, which currently is in stealth mode, is called Sunflower.

A patent application filed by Gharabegian in July 2015 (published Nov. 2016) reveals a super-smart motorized shading system that might move with the sun, play music, accommodate a projector for video effects, and even perform facial recognition for security and personalized comfort.

Say goodbye to old-fashioned patio umbrellas and even modern-day awnings, which do little more than open and retract at the press of a button.

Here’s the problem with those existing solutions, according to the patent application:

[C]urrent sun shading devices do not appear to be flexible or modifiable or able to adapt to changing environmental conditions or user's desires. Many of the current sun shading devices appear to require manual operation in order to change inclination angle of the frame to more fully protect an individual from the environment. In addition, the current sun shading devices appear to cover a set area that is defined by an area of the awning or umbrella. Further, the current sun shading devices appear to have one (or a single) awning or fabric piece that is mounted to an interconnected unitary frame. An interconnected unitary frame may not be able to be opened or deployed in a situation where only a portion or several portions of the shading object are necessary to be deployed. 

The Maximillian: What a $25,000 chair looks like.

The patent application shows a variety of shading designs, all of which enable the product to move with the sun and retract when not in use. The shades include multiple “shading elements” that can be moved individually or as a group to provide optimal shade coverage.

Besides photocells for sun detection, the products might also may tie into other weather-related sensors to go up during rain (for example) or retract during windy conditions.

Furthermore, the patent application suggests the following implementations:

  • Photocells on the products could power the motors and peripherals, including automation processors, touchscreen controllers or audio
  • Speakers on the shades could project sound towards users
  • “[S]hading object may also include an illumination source that can project light and/or videos onto surfaces of a shading object.”
  • Cameras on the shading devices could monitor the area for security purposes.
  • With facial-recognition technology, on-board cameras could adjust automatically for returning users, whose images and preferences are captured by the system …

In an embodiment, a controller or processor may retrieve personal settings for a matched individual. In an embodiment of an invention, personal settings may be for different aspects of a shading object. For example, personal settings may be comprised of wireless digital music player settings (e.g., volume, a playlist), umbrella location settings (e.g., azimuth and/or elevation settings), cooling mist settings, video projection settings, and/or light projection settings. In an embodiment, a controller or processor may transmit commands and/or signals associated with above-identified settings directly or indirectly to a wireless digital music player to establish music player settings, to a motor to place a shading object and/or shading element in established umbrella location setting, to a cooling mist system, a video projector, and/or a light projector. In an embodiment, a controller. 

Inventor Gharabegian is founder of the Los Angeles-based design firms Lounge22 and Ethos Designs. Although ShadeCraft and the new Sunflower product are in stealth mode, Gharabegian gives us a hint of his intentions on his Wikipedia page.

The company was founded in 2016, “when he realized the void in the smart home ecosystem for outdoor products that connect users to the IoT.”

Flowchart from ShadeCraft patent application.

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About the Author

Julie Jacobson
Julie Jacobson:

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson


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