The average twenty-something probably spends at least 20 hours of her life putting together Ikea furniture. Between the infuriating little wooden pegs, to the pieces left over at the end that almost certainly have a place in your furniture, Ikea occupies a strange place in our hearts and homes.
But what if you never had to assemble another Malm again? Enter: the robots. One group has figured out how to program robots to convert a set of instructions into commands and execute them. New Scientist spoke with Niel Dantam, the researcher behind the project:
“You want to somehow capture the important aspects of the human’s motion and transfer that to the robot,” says Dantam. “Think about how you’d tell someone how to make a cake,” he says. The way people follow those steps may vary. “An adult might bend down over the counter to work while a child may stand on tiptoes.”
Other people have worked on this problem too. In a paper out of MIT, researchers talk about writing an algorithm that will have robots assemble Ikea furniture on their own. They write about why Ikea furniture is a good goal for robot development:
The Ikea furniture assembly system has a very versatile architecture. It makes use of almost all the possible ways of making a Robust and ideal mobile manipulation system.
Ikea already uses robots to make and package their products. Here’s a video of the MOTOMAN robots that create the “Billy” bookcase.
Now, from start to finish, Ikea could be entirely robotized. Of course, we’ve been hoping to get robots to do our Ikea building for us for a while now. In 2006, The New York Times ran an article about robots “stepping into daily life.” One of their examples was bots that could assemble furniture:
At Stanford University, for instance, computer scientists are developing a robot that can use a hammer and a screwdriver to assemble an Ikea bookcase (a project beyond the reach of many humans) as well as tidy up after a party, load a dishwasher or take out the trash.
But these days, we’re even closer than we were to robot slaves assembly our pressboard dressers.
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