These Marriage-Saving Robots Learned How to Assemble Your Ikea Furniture

There’s nothing quite setting foot in an Ikea and imagining how stylish your bedroom will look once it’s filled with brand new furniture. But before you know it, you’re frantically searching for a crucial, oddly-shaped piece of wood that you’ve misplaced amongst a sea of boxes. Fortunately, the two robotic arms pictured in the video above could soon be deployed in time to relieve your flatpack fear.

That’s thanks to a team of roboticists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore who programmed two robot limbs to build a Stefan chair in just over 20 minutes. Co-author Dr. Quang-Cuong Pham told Inverse that this is likely slower than most humans, but would you rather save a few minutes or not break a sweat at all?

The paper, published in the journal Science Robotics, details how the arms were able to construct the chair almost exactly like a human would.

This is #6 on Inverse’s list of the 20 Ways A.I. Became More Human in 2018.

“At the start, the parts were placed randomly within the environment. This is similar to human assembly settings,” he explained. “To emphasize the genericity of the setup, we used only commercial off-the-shelf hardware: industrial robot arms, parallel grippers, force sensors, and a three-dimensional camera. This reflects the genericity of human ‘hardware,’ the same eyes and hands are used to assemble a large variety of objects.”

The experiment was largely successful, though the team had to code each individual step to get the arms to pull the task off entirely. That’s not ideal if you want to make an all-in-one Ikea building robot. In their future work, Dr. Pham wants to incorporate artificial intelligence algorithms and natural-language processing to allow the arms to act on written or spoken instructions.

If they’re able to pull it off, then these robots will soon be saving us humans hours upon hours of time, to say nothing of all the marriages.

Media via Suárez-Ruiz, Zhou, Pham, Sci. Robot. 3, eaat6385 (2018)