IKEA furniture are cheap, with the trade-off being that assembly is required before they can be enjoyed by the family. The furniture looks easy to assemble, but when the box containing the parts is taken home and opened, the task suddenly looks more daunting than initially thought.
If you are one of these people that has found difficulty in assembling IKEA furniture, there is no need to be frustrated. Apparently, even robots are not able to easily put them together.
Quang-Cuong Pham and Francisco Suárez-Ruiz, who are researchers from Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, are attempting to get robots to complete the assembly of IKEA furniture. However, as reported by MIT Technology Review, getting the robots to learn how to do so has been very difficult. While robots are very capable of participating in the assembly of complex objects such as vehicles, the robots are not finding it easy to assemble furniture on their own.
The difficulties that the robots are going through in assembling IKEA furniture are because robots are still not able to analyze objects as well as humans, such as picking up a part of the furniture and then understanding where it should be placed. Robots are very efficient and quick when they perform individual tasks that they are programmed to do, but not a series of tasks that are dependent on different, non-interchangeable components.
The robot being built by Pham and Suarez-Ruiz is tasked to assemble a chair from IKEA. The robot has a pair of arms, with each arm packing six points of articulation with grippers at the end, along with a vision system made up of six cameras that can accurately judge distance down to only 3 millimeters.
Theoretically, these capabilities of the robot should make it easy for it to distinguish among all the differently-sized wooden components that come with IKEA furniture, with the components to be picked up by either of its arms and then being put together.
However, the vision system of the robot is finding it difficult to handle the wooden dowels, and while it was still able to insert a wooden dowel into one leg of a chair, it was not as smooth as expected. The researchers said that they would keep working on the robot to have it be able to assemble the IKEA chair though.
Maybe in a few years, robots would be advanced enough to be able to do such supposedly easy tasks for humans. But until then, humans are stuck with using their own hands in assembling IKEA furniture.