From Stone to Smart: The Office Evolution

SMART FURNITURE  |  Meet Live OS, the first human-centered, enterprise-ready system of connected furnishings.


In the beginning, there was desk. And chair. There were required office hours of 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

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And there was disgruntled employee (we’ll call him Grok), who spent majority of life in said chair, at said desk, during said office hours.

Every. Single. Day.

Grok would shift uncomfortably in the chair, foot falling asleep, just watching the clock slowly crawl its way toward noon, when Grok could finally unchain himself from his desk to head to the (not really much better) break room for a mediocre lunch of soggy bread and bologna that he packed the night before.

“There’s got to be more to (office) life than this,” Grok muttered, exasperated after another monotonous day at his desk.

And so there was.

Closer to now, but still far away

Fast forward (insert large but realistic number here) years, to about 1994. Grok is using his plug-in alarm clock (remember those!?) to wake up in the morning. Grok’s pager sits on his nightstand next to his Nintendo Game Boy. Calvin Klein is rocking the scene with the ever-popular CK One. Also rocking the scene is modernist furniture giant Herman Miller. It was at this time that Herman Miller started merging the concept of technology and office environments, with the launch of their iconic Aeron chair.

Even closer to now

Fast forward another 20+ years, to about 2015. Grok said goodbye to David Letterman, and hello to Full House reboot, Fuller House. Grok now has an additional appendage known as his iPhone. At this point, Universal Mind has been on the scene for over 10 years, moving from a flex shop to a team of innovators, designers, and developers who build cool stuff for cool people.

Universal Mind helped craft the vision for a smart line of furniture products, starting with a desk.

Herman Miller is still on the furniture scene, working to revolutionize the office furniture industry. It was at this time that Dallas local Universal Mind (headquartered in Denver), teamed up with furniture giant Herman Miller, and a slew of other smart, savvy companies, to begin the work needed to create the world’s first smart chair and desk — a true merging of technology and furniture.

Universal Mind helped craft the vision for a smart line of furniture products, starting with a desk. The task at hand: create something that provides value to Grok, as well as to the organizations who invest in it (read: Grok’s employer).


Meet Live OS, the brainchild of this team after years of planning and collaboration. In tech speak, Live OS is the first human-centered, enterprise-ready system of connected furnishings to enable the workplace to more deeply engage with people.

Say whaaa?

In Grok (human) speak, Live OS (the software) grabs data from sensors (which can be installed on any work surface) and utilizes that data to provide a more comfortable, efficient workspace for Grok, and a more efficient work space for Grok’s employer.

Live OS shows, in dashboard style, which desks and spaces in the organization are utilized most, what times the office is at, over, or under capacity, and thereby identify unused spaces. With this information, Grok’s employer is able to control operational costs and improve space utilization.

When paired with the standing desk, Grok is able to create custom settings for his preferred height, and then set activity goals and receive reminders (like those on the Apple Watch), telling him when to stand up or switch postures.

Cool things about this project:

  • The app is available for both iOS and Android. The Groks of the world are happy regardless of their personal phone preferences.
  • Grok can use the app to set up his sit/stand height, and then take that to any Live OS desk in the company and have it auto adjust to his preferences. Grok can simply tap the desk control once and the desk moves to the appropriate height.
  • The desk will work with Grok to help him achieve his sit/stand balance goal over time, almost like having a personal trainer at work.
  • Reminders from the desk appear in the form of both light and haptic vibrations, which are subtle enough to be noticed but not interrupt Grok at work.
  • The Universal Mind team (that’s us!) designed dashboards that make complex data easy to understand and utilize, allowing Grok’s boss to easily ascertain what’s happening in any space at a simple glance.
  • We also created an app that helps set up the Live OS system during install. We all know what a pain it can be to install new software and get it to actually work in a timely fashion, so this was a win for all involved.

The Future

Grok is happy at work. Grok is healthy at work. Grok’s boss has an efficiently run office. Grok’s boss is happy. Grok’s boss’s boss is happy.

As for Universal Mind? We’re still building cool digital stuff for cool people.

As for you? Give us a call (866-429-2481) and we’ll see how your story unfolds.

Images courtesy of Universal Mind.

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