Rico Zorkendorfer, among several members of Apple Inc’s industrial design team to leave the company in recent months, has joined Bumblebee Spaces, a startup seeking to merge robotics with home furnishings.
Zorkendorfer left Apple in April and is now leading design at the San Francisco-based startup that is combining smart home products and robotics, Sankarshan Murthy, the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer, told Bloomberg News.
Bumblebee Spaces has developed beds, closets and storage containers attached to robot actuators that allow the furnishings to be raised into ceilings, increasing the amount of space in an apartment. For example, a room can be an open space living room during the day with a bed that comes down from the ceiling at night.
At Bumblebee Spaces, Zorkendorfer is leading the design of the company’s furnishings, consumer interactions and the look of its smartphone app, Murthy said. Before leaving Apple, Zorkendorfer worked on a number of devices, including the Apple Watch, during his more than 15 years at the company.
As a member of Apple’s industrial design group of about two dozen people under the outgoing chief design officer Jony Ive, Zorkendorfer was key to the iPhone maker’s product launches.
Ive announced that he’s leaving Apple after about three decades to form his own design company.
Few of Apple’s industrial designers left the company for most of its history, but Zorkendorfer was one of at least three to depart in the past six months and among six who have left in the past three years.
Bumblebee, started in 2017, said it’s selling products to apartment building landlords and individual condominium owners and has started installations in San Francisco and Seattle.
The startup has received funding from Loup Ventures and others. Bloomberg Beta, the venture capital arm of Bloomberg LP, is also an investor.