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Nerds In Singapore Finally Did Something Valuable, Invented A Robot That Can Assemble IKEA Furniture

NY Times- Now researchers in Singapore say they have trained one to perform another task known to confound humans: figuring out how to assemble furniture from Ikea.

A team from Nanyang Technological University programmed a robot to create and execute a plan to piece together most of Ikea’s $25 solid-pine Stefan chair on its own, calling on a medley of human skills to do so.

“If you think about it, it requires perception, it requires you to plan a motion, it requires control between the robot and the environment, it requires transporting an object with two arms simultaneously,” said Dr. Quang-Cuong Pham…

The robot proceeded in three broad phases, spread out over 20 minutes 19 seconds.

First, like humans, it took some time to stare at the pieces scattered before it.

Then, over more than 11 minutes, the robot devised a plan that would allow it to quickly assemble the chair without its arms knocking into each other or into the various parts.

Finally, it put the plan in motion over the course of nearly nine minutes. The robot used grippers to pick up the wooden pins from a tray and force sensors at its “wrists” to detect when the pins, searching in a spiral pattern, finally slid into their holes. Working in unison, the arms then pressed the sides of the chair frame together.

Fascinating. Just extraordinary. I watched that clip and held my breath the entire time, hoping those chair pieces would fall perfectly with their pegs in the holes. When the left arm carefully nudges the pieces, and they finally nestle into each other? Erotic. I let out of wheeze.

I’ve held unplanned bonfires using the splintered remnants of a day spent fruitlessly assembling the jigsaw kindling of IKEAs bomb shelter furniture. I’m not the most vocal proponent of robotic advancement, but if we can teach robots to assemble IKEA shit with the only risk being the possible computerized enslavement of the human race? I’m on board. Even the most fearful anti-robot protestors would have a hard time opposing this technology.

Of course, the robot didn’t succeed right away. There were several failed attempts along the way and researchers tweaked the system before the robot was finally able to assemble the chair on its own.

How pathetic! How perfectly human! Did you see how dejected that arm was after the leg of the chair fell? The robot recoiled in shock as the arm toppled, and then it realized that it was losing to a chair. That’s when you see all its hopes and dreams leak out of its joints. That is the look of a robot that has given up, a robot ready to toss those chair pieces into the incinerator, buy a couple cases of beer, and sit around on clementine crates for 3 months until mom finally comes to visit and forces you to get real furniture. We’ve all been there. If you don’t sympathize with that clip, you’re colder than the robot.