The latest tech stories from around the world...

I Tried Aescape’s Robot-Arm-Powered Massage Table—and Loved Being In Control

I had My first-ever professional massage last December during a spa day with some friends. Everyone opted for a traditional massage, which required a preliminary consultation. They disrobed, and the massage took place in a private room. I opted for a shiatsu massage—a clothed experience in a semiprivate area, and while I felt physically relaxed afterward, I didn’t have the best time. My limbs were stretched painfully too far, and I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

So I was intrigued when I learned about Aescape, a fully automated massage table. The contraption is equipped with two robot arms on each side of the table and will sit right at home in any sci-fi flick’s medical examination room. I wouldn’t say it gives off zen vibes, but I was willing to look past the tech because it offers complete privacy—there’s no other human in the room during your massage.

The entire experience is designed to be on-demand. Using Aescape’s companion app, you can browse different massage options and book a session based on available tables in your area. I tried it out at Aescape’s headquarters in New York City, and the company has partnered with Equinox to launch its massage tables in 10 locations across New York City in May. (You don’t have to be an Equinox member to sign up for a session.) The company didn’t specify when or if the experience will come to other cities in the US, but it says it plans to add other locations such as hotels and spas in the future. Each session starts at $60.

If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more.

Robot EngagedPhotograph: Aescape

An Aescape massage has the same setup process no matter which location you book. Once I arrived, I had to change into Aerware—the company’s custom apparel built specially for the massage—to wear during the session. This helps the depth sensors overhead see your body and guarantees a level of friction when the touch sensors, called “Aerpoints,” come in contact with it. It felt like standard workout wear, so it was comfortable throughout the entirety of the massage.

Once I changed my clothes, I lay down on the massage table, rested my head on the face cradle, and was greeted by a touchscreen display that prompted me to pick a massage. At launch, Aescape will offer 20 massage programs with more to come later in the year. Some will focus on athletic recovery, while others will target general wellness. I was only able to try the Total Back and Glutes massage for my demo.

The next step is a body scan. Directly above the massage table are infrared sensors that capture a 3D computational model of the body. Aescape says this generates over 1.1 million 3D data points that accurately map your body’s position and identify key areas for the targeted massage. Basically, it’s what helps the Aerpoints know exactly where they are relative to your body.