Video of the week: NTU robots excel at assembling furniture

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This week’s video comes from Singapore where a pair of robots have achieved in 20 minutes what some humans take all weekend to fulfil.

The task in question is assembling IKEA furniture, and scientists at Nanyang Technological University have developed algorithms that enable the robots to take the necessary steps to assemble IKEA’s Stefan chair.

The actual assembly phase took 8 minutes and 55 seconds. Prior to the assembly, the robot took 11 minutes and 21 seconds to plan the motion pathways and three seconds to locate the parts.

Credit: NTU Singapore

Asst Prof Pham Quang Cuong, from NTU’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering said: “For a robot, putting together an IKEA chair with such precision is more complex than it looks.

"The job of assembly, which may come naturally to humans, has to be broken down into different steps, such as identifying where the different chair parts are, the force required to grip the parts, and making sure the robotic arms move without colliding into each other. Through considerable engineering effort, we developed algorithms that will enable the robot to take the necessary steps to assemble the chair on its own.

“We are looking to integrate more artificial intelligence into this approach to make the robot more autonomous so it can learn the different steps of assembling a chair through human demonstration or by reading the instruction manual, or even from an image of the assembled product.”

The results of NTU’s efforts are published in Science Robotics.