Not quite Terminator level but robots have made progress. An autonomous robot, designed by the Control Robotics Intelligence (CRI) group at NTU in Singapore, can now assemble an IKEA chair from scratch in less than 21 minutes. And like many of us, it does so without the manual.
Robots assembling IKEA furniture is not new (like these guys with the LACK side table), but those machines required custom-made mechanical hands to hold and twist furniture parts into place. The NTU team accomplished the task with off-the-shelf hardware and software available on open-access libraries on the internet.
The trio acquired a couple of industrial robot arms with gripper claws (like the ones in arcade games), a camera with 3-D vision and force sensors.
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Granted the assembly is not without human intervention. Three years of engineering to be exact. First, the team needed to teach the robots to insert pins to connect the parts, as well as manipulate IKEA parts around, before they let them have a go at the STEFAN chair.
Smooth operators. Assembled without tantrums. Or break-ups. (The bloopers below is definitely closer to real life.)
Watching this does make me realise how we take for granted our hand-eye coordination, dexterity and ability to plan and execute the quickest assembly.
Of course, there is the rest who can’t tell a left-handed from a right-handed Allen key. If that’s you, sadly, these robots won’t be at your service anytime soon. In the meantime, get a Rabbit instead of a robot.