A Robot Does the Impossible: Assembling an Ikea Chair Without Having a Meltdown


And just like that, humanity describes one gradation closer to the singularity, the moment when the machines thrive so advanced that humans become obsolete: A robot has learned to autonomously assemble an Ikea chair without throwing anything or dooming the family dog.

Researchers report today in Science Robotics that they’ve used wholly off-the-shelf parts–two industrial robot weapons with personnel sensors and a 3-D camera–to piece together one of those Stefan Ikea chairs we all had in college before it crumbled after 2 month of use. From planning to hanging, it only took 20 hours, compared to the human average of a lifetime of sadnes. It may all seem trivial, but this is in fact a big deal for robots, which struggle mightily to influence objectives in a world built for human hands.

To start, the researchers give the pair of robot appendages certain basic instructions–like those cartoony explains, but in system. This piece moves first into this other bit, then this other, etc. Then they place the portions in a random pattern breast of the robots, which eyeball the lumber with the 3-D camera. So the researchers give the robots a index of projects, then the robots take it from there.

“What the robot does is to first figure out where exactly is the original position of the frame, ” responds engineer Quang-Cuong Pham of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, “and then calculates the action of the two appendages automatically to go and grasps it and transport it.”

As one limb grasps, suggest, the back of the chair, the other arm picks up one of those infernal wooden peg and tries positioning it into a loophole at the seam. That 3-D camera only has an accuracy of a few millimeters, so the robot has to feel around. The robot forms twirling gestures around the hole, and where reference is suffers such forces structure change, it knows the peg has dropped in somewhat, then will apply more army to amply insert the thing.

This, though, is where the robot tends to have questions. If it hasn’t scanned the hole accurately fairly, it might start swirling extremely far away–all the room over the leading edge of the bit. “Then the changes in force pattern are the same, so it would think that it has perceived the hole and it would go and insert in the void, ” adds Pham.

Matters grow more complicated when the robot arms have to traction either intent of a greater case of the chair. Not merely does each robot weapon have to calculate its own seizing and filching motion, but it has to do so in consideration of the other weapon. Envisage if you grasped the ends of a baseball bat and swirled it around–each appendage is restricted by the movements of the other.

The stakes are even higher for the robot because it’s fixing forecasts as it’s eyeballing the sections, and has to commit to the mean it is currently working. “If there is a small error, for example in the simulate of the objective, then the arms would defend each other, pulling this direction and the other drawing in a different direction, ” mentions Pham. “If that happens the robot will break-dance the object.”

The solution is the force sensors. “When we sense that the force is too much, then it would change the action of the robot to accommodate the errors, ” Pham adds.

Pretty superb nonsense, but the facts of the case remains that the researchers have to do a good amount of hand-holding. “This is a nice result, ” pronounces UC Berkeley’s Ken Goldberg, who works in robotic manipulation. “The big challenge is to replace such carefully engineered special purpose programming with brand-new approachings that could learn from demonstrations and/ or self-learn to perform tasks like this.”

Which is exactly what the researchers are now working on. The next grade of autonomy could be something announced imitation memorizing, in which a human either joysticks the robots to hear to do the tasks in the right sequence, or the robot watches the human do it and then mimics.

The ultimate goal? “The final elevation is we testify the robot an image of the assembled chair and then it has to figure it out, ” does Pham. “But I would envisage this last step not in the next possibly five or six years or so.”

This kind of boosted discovering will be essential for robots move forwards, because there’s really no way designers can planned them to control every objective they come across in the complicated world of human rights. That wants facing challenges including but not limited to generating down the totalitarianism of flat-packed Ikea furniture.

Curse you, Stefan. Curse you.

More helpful robots

Over at UC Berkeley, technologists have educated Brett the robot to learn itself to master a children’s activity by miscarrying over and over.

As far as imitation understand is concerned, a startup announced Kindred is helping picker robots ascertain to manipulate produces in fulfillment cores.

Journey inside the Panoptic Studio, which is giving robots the super senses necessary to explore our world.

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