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This chair will self-destruct in eight sits


March 13, 2013

The "DRM Chair" is rigged with a counter that triggers it to fall to pieces after being sat on eight times

The "DRM Chair" is rigged with a counter that triggers it to fall to pieces after being sat on eight times

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The question of acceptable DRM (Digital Rights Management) to combat piracy has been a hot-button issue with software consumers for years, with the most recent controversy arising from last week's SimCity release. But what if the concept of disabling a product after certain conditions are met wasn't just restricted to digital goods? That's the idea that a design team in Switzerland decided to explore with the "DRM Chair," a piece of furniture rigged to fall apart after being sat on eight times.

After an initial attempt involving charges made of gunpowder proved to be ineffective (and dangerous), the team settled on a design with each piece of the wooden chair held together using wax joints fitted with nichrome wire.

An Arduino-based mechanism attached to a contact switch keeps track of how many times someone sits on it and knocks on the wood each time they get up, indicating the number of uses left. After eight people have sat on it, the mechanism triggers a self-destruct system, which heats the wire until each joint melts and breaks away.

The DRM Chair was constructed by Les Sugus, a group consisting of former and current students of the ECAL design school in Switzerland. The team built the chair over a period of 48 hours as part of The Deconstruction, a competition aimed at fostering creativity and collaboration.

Check out the video below to watch the DRM Chair slowly collapse after reaching eight uses.

Source: Thibault Brevet via The Deconstruction

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things. All articles by Jonathan Fincher

While I found this to be unique and different, I think it is not very bright since no one is going to buy a chair that falls apart after one sits on it 8 times. IMO; it would be a waste of money.

If they were trying to show how silly DRM really is, I can see why they made it to do what it does.


Of course, as a pure demonstration to make a point, in that controlled situation, it's fine. And it well, though in an oversimplified manner, makes the ridiculousness-of-DRM point.

Thank goodness, though, that it's not a real product. While they got right the method of making it fall apart after the 8th sitting, and not on the 9th (because so doing would be dangerous to the 9th sitter), the slow-burn method of making the chair fall apart opens wide the door for a 9th sitter to try before the disintegration process has completed. They should have made the disintegration mechanical, not chemical, so that the chair would burst apart immediately upon the 8th sitter's rising up off the chair and getting a single step away. That would be the only safe method, were this chair a real product.

But, of course, again, it's not; and it was a demonstration to make a point in a controlled situation, and so was safe.

But I'm just sayin'.

Gregg DesElms

Boy, that is some delicate seat sitting. I think it would probably fall apart sooner if you just went and sat on it like a normal chair.


Planned obsolescence of this type should be illegal unless the consumer knows of it before purchasing unlike the counter in many printers.

Max Kennedy

That was the point they are trying to make. DRM products have their place - but people should reassess what price they are willing to pay for something which is designed not to be an asset. If this was placed on the market, what would you pay for it?

Ian McIntosh

@Ian McIntosh: Nothing, I won't buy something that will break. Imagen a fat person sat on the chair 2 breaks and it should have lasted 8 times, those people will sue.

@Max Kennedy, BigWarpGuy: Agree

Does the bathroom scale also count as DRM?

Harry Neethling

Gillette pioneered the disposable business model with the disposable razor vs the straight one used by people at the time. I truly hope corporations don't find a way to profit from this idea any further as it contributes to hyper consumerism and excess garbage.

Talk about not building them like they used to.


If there was an antonym for "social responcibility", "engineered obsolesence" would be it.

No one wants to buy junk, so who would want to make it?

Companies that make junk, including those who practice engineered obsolesence don't care about our planet or our future, they just want to better their bottom line in an unethical way.


DRM, (digital rights management) This is not new, temporary licenses have existed for as long as there has been software.

Paying for the digital product, is only fair IF the product actually does what it is suppose to for a fair price. Think back to simpler times when we all used devices such as pen to paper. That evolved to typewriters, and through to computers and the digital realm.

This is the crux of the matter; tangible things are easier to control.

Not just ownership, but money and power are what run the mill.

Therefore manipulating all those 0’s & 1’s is BIG business, and that is fine, BUT easier to duplicate, and get for next to nothing. Maybe that’s why most people hate Microsoft. (well at least spell check capitalized the word for me).

I take a picture of Niagara falls, is the picture mine to keep, yes in either digital or traditional roll photo film. (Remember those days) Takin into account both the equipment costs, the consumables, do I need to pay for either method, yes, the roll & development of film obviously.

Classical 35mm Camera virtually $0 mine has been in the closet for 20 years. (Even 20 years ago maybe $200) $10 + $6 to print. If I get double copies, I can mail one to a friend for about a dollar. As for the digital version, oh it does not cost you anything, wrong. Smart phone $0-$800 Laptop or PC $500+ Digital camera $200 Printer $300 Inks $50 Photo paper $50 Then there is the software to capture, adjust, & optimize the quality. Then get the digital version displayed, or sent out, or if you prefer print it. Latest version of Windows™ $120 Adobe Photoshop™ $700 Provider Service Plan $600 So even if I only take two dozen pictures a year, Classical = $9 per photo (including the camera) for less than $1 I can mail the entire second set to half a dozen friends.

Accounting for the combined annual service contracts, & equipment; 24 Digital photos per year, between $34 -130+ per picture. Granted you can use most of the service and equipment for other things, but compare that to the classical camera that worked in sub zero weather.

Furthermore how to determine the acceptable level of performance of digital goods is yet another giant industry.

Is this why we want money for everything now, digital addiction….

Bob Flint

I guess I'm missing something, but I don't understand the point of a chair that self destructs.

Joe Sobotka

Classic case of a solution in search of a problem.

Capt'n Squid

This project produced an exceptionally ugly object in trying to make a point about DRM. Even federal Correctional Craft furniture looks better. However, in point of fact, DRM management shows up in lots of consumer products. As an example, every small printer I have ever seen has had an intentionally limited ink & other component lifespan by careful design. The Schick effect has been misused repeatedly. Mr. Schick, (yes there was one), merely intended that a user could easily have a fresh, safe, sharp razor at an affordable price. Modern manufacturers aim to make sure customers are kept on an invisible tight leash. Actual durability is seen to be a bad thing. A decade ago the CEO of a large well known stapler maker noticed that he was selling lots of staples but not so many staplers. He was indignant when an engineering team found that many customer companies had staplers made by his firm from the 1930s forward. He then commanded that forthwith the staplers needed to be cheapened to make sure of steady repeat sales. He got his way. You can get these at any Office Smack or Office Dump store. I have had some fail before I even got around to throwing out the massive anti-shoplifting wrapping.


And next we're going to make a toilet that doesn't flush after the 10th use..... sheesh


In modern business, there are three classifications of property, Title A, B and C. A is for buildings and the components installed in them, B is for furnishings and equipment, C is for things that get used up like mops, rags and brooms. Now title B items are being moved into the Title C category. things that are issued with the understanding that they will get used up quickly and be thrown away? How long will it be before Title A items wind up there too?? Someone wrote a book or treatise called Disposable Society many years ago. It looks like we're almost there now.


Expanded Viewpoint

I don't know what the big deal is... IKEA has been making furniture designed this way for years.


I give the first person to sell such an object 28 days before they are in serious legal trouble. Product liability insurance will be withdrawn, and all involved will be bankrupt by Christmas or Easter, whichever falls first.

Russell Willmoth

StWils, it was King C. Gillette who came up with the disposable razor blade. He sold the razors at a loss and made money on the blades.

The ironic (or hypocritical) part is that Gillette was a socialist and a an anti-militarist who made a giant fortune in the capitalistic business of selling razors and blades to the United States military during World War 1.

Gregg Eshelman

Don't lean back...

I can see the Fed gov buying these with a timer instead of a counter to insure mandated waste....


@Bob Flint, you're not comparing apples with apples...

Your 35mm film camera wasn't free, you just happen to already own it. Generally the case with computers/phones, as well.

Further to #1, you're not accounting for the fact that all of those things (apart from the digital camera itself) can do other things. Unless you're using the above only for photography, then you need to discount value appropriately for the other tasks you use these things for

Why do you include photoshop, when simply having the photos printed allows no scope for editing them? The methods used to touch up photos before we had photo editing software were certainly much more labour intensive.

The digital format allows us to take many more photos, and not spend resources to print the ones we don't like. So we don't have to limit our film usage, and have a greater chance of a better result. If we took multiple shots with film like we do with digital, you might end up paying $30 to $50 per good shot

James Gray
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